A skydiving accident at a facility in Lake Elsinore, east of Los Angeles, resulted in the death of 55 year old Josef Marhl on March 31. Originally from Vienna, Austria, Marhl was an experienced skydiver who has completed between 20 and 30 jumps at this facility in the days leading up to the accident, according to the facility’s general manager, Joshua Hall. He passed away at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar. The accident took place at Skylark Airport in Lake Elsinore. A group of European tourists had been jumping throughout the weekend. Riverside County sheriff deputies were called on the scene when one of them never recovered from landing on Monday. Having sustained significant injuries, the deputies transferred Marhl over to emergency medical personnel.
He was alive on the way to the hospital, but passed away after making it to the hospital.
A total report of his sustained injuries has not yet been released. Marhl was not new to skydiving. He was quite experienced and had over 2,000 jumps under his belt before the incident. “He had done two jumps previously that day (with) perfectly normal landings,” said Hall. Reportedly, there were three witnesses to the accident. Two of them had recorded the jump. According to the videos, the parachute was fine and there was no air traffic nor other canopies that he may have been avoiding.
“Nothing appeared to be wrong with the parachute,” Hall said.
The suspected cause of the fatal crash is said to have been due to the parachute turning too closely to the ground with not enough time to properly recover to a flat, level flight before landing. This resulted in Marhl’s harsh impact into the landing zone. If the parachute was not flat and level, then there was not enough air caught inside the canopy to slow it down for a safe landing. This caused Marhl to land roughly on the ground.
While the dangers and hazards of skydiving are very real, fatal incidents such as this one are extremely rare.
The skydiving facility at Lake Elsinore and also at the neighboring Skydive Perris, at Perris Valley Airport, have both reported incident fatalities in the last few years. In April 2015, an 88 year old man from San Pedro passed away from a skydiving incident, according to Press-Enterprise. This was the last fatality at this facility. The most recent death to occur at the Perris location was back in March 2015. A Navy SEAL passed away after sustaining multiple injuries during a parachute jump training operation. The facility at Lake Elsinore has been open since 1958 with few fatalities. They average approximately 75,000 jumps per year.
The vast majority of these jumps are successful; however, accidents can happen.
Skydiving is an extreme sport with very obvious risks. One must sign a waiver beforehand that releases the facility from any liability if an accident does occur. All skydivers are well aware of the risks that skydiving poses. Many, like Marhl, simply love the experience and tend to keep coming back for more.