The state of California has put a new skydiving law into effect called “Tyler’s Law” that is intended to make skydiving safer. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, which requires the person “rigging” a parachute and the person jumping with a skydiver on a tandem skydive—where the individual is strapped to an instructor at four points—to have certifications that comply to federal regulations. If a person does not have these Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications, the skydiving company can be held accountable.
In August 2016, a skydiving accident killed 18-year-old Tyler Turner. Tyler’s mother, Francine Turner, petitioned for Tyler’s Law, but the FAA failed to punish the business after a yearlong investigation.
Both Tyler and his instructor died while performing a tandem jump at Skydive Lodi Parachute Center in California. An investigation revealed that the instructor was not properly certified to make the jump. Francine felt that somebody should be held accountable for her son’s death.
“You are putting 100 percent trust in them, and we felt very betrayed,” Francine said. “It was shocking, absolutely unbelievable that they would send someone unqualified to jump with my son.”
Nancy Drabble, the CEO of Consumer Attorneys of California, was in favor of the law. “It is very critically important for safety that both of those people have current federal certifications,” Drabble said. “If not, you could be parachuting with anyone.”
Since the year 2000 over 10 people have been killed due to skydiving accidents at Skydive Lodi. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) said there were 21 deaths from skydiving in 2016 out of 3.2 million jumps.
Ed Scott, the Executive Director of the USPA, said the laws only copy regulations that are already put into place. “The new law duplicates federal regulations, and USPA expects all skydiving operators to comply with these common sense requirements and understands the impetus for imposing a state penalty on those who don’t,” Scott said.
Aside from reinforcing regulations that both the person packing the parachute and the person instructing a tandem skydive are FAA certified, Tyler’s Law also makes it the operator’s responsibility. In turn, this allows victims (or victim’s families) to sue skydiving companies that fail to comply with these regulations.
Tyler’s Law states, “The bill would, to the extent allowed by federal law, provide that owners and operators of a skydiving or sport parachuting operation have a duty to ensure that the parachutist in command of a tandem jump and the parachute rigger responsible for packing a parachute are in compliance with all federal laws relating to parachute safety and certification.”
For violating this law, a person “is punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment of not more than six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Tyler’s Law has given Francine mixed emotions. “I was elated, some justice for my son, a step, and I don’t plan to quit,” she said. “It’s really hard to feel joyous when on the other side it is such great sorrow.”