Zephyrhills, Florida November 14, 2017
Authorities are currently investigating the death of a man following a skydiving accident in Zephyrhills, Florida yesterday. The authorities are not releasing the identity of the victim pending notification of his family, but said he was 36 years old. The man was skydiving at Skydive City Drop Zone yesterday about 5 p.m. when the fatal incident occurred.
Skydive City is loc, ted at the Zephyrhills municipal airport and according to accounts the accident was the result of his parachute failing to deploy. Witnesses said the man was an experienced skydiver, with at least 250 jumps to his credit. The investigation is ongoing and no information has been released to the public mentioning the actual cause of the chute not opening. According to the representatives of the drop zone, they plan to release a statement regarding the incident today.
Preliminary reports have indicated the man hit the ground at full speed after jumping with a group of 10 people. The others hadn’t noticed the man was missing until after their jumps were complete. This is because the skydivers landed in the middle of a hundred acre field, while he was discovered to the far right of the field.
Many people throughout the local skydive community are mourning a friend and fellow skydiving enthusiast who they say was well loved. Skydive City drop zone Manager T.K. Hayes says he is “numb after losing someone he knew well, a friend who was experienced with many jumps under his belt.”
He went on to indicate to local media that, “It’s a really sad day for the community. Everyone’s kind of, big hugs out here. It’s a quiet evening now. Still a lot of people asking why,”
Mr. Hayes said that the man was one of the last skydives of the day and at approximately 4:30p.m. a no pull, no deployment of either chute occurred. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
Many questions remain as to why this happened. In most cases, especially with a Tandem skydive, reserve chutes are packed with an Automatic Activation Device (AAD) equipped that will force chute deployment if the skydiver reaches a specific elevation or a particular speed is achieved. However, in the case of a solo skydive being executed by a seasoned skydiver, this may not have been the case. Certified skydivers are permitted to skydive without assistance after a course called Accelerated Freefall (AFF) and some are certified to pack their own rigs.
There are skydiving schools at local drop zones and skydiving facilities to train those interested in completing solo skydives. Following the completion of the course, the skydiver is eligible to request to join the United States Parachute Association (USPA) which entitles them to skydive at any participating facility or drop zone within the US. These classes are available for a fee, but are not too lengthy. Classes are available for skydivers to become trained and eligible to pack their own chutes as well.
It appears that the man did not have an AAD equipped. Per Skydive City General Manager Mr. Hayes, nothing at this point indicates anything was wrong with the skydiver’s equipment. After carefully looking at videos other Skydive City parachutists recorded at the time there is no obvious cause for what happened. Hayes has further stated that sometimes these type accidents are the result of distractions a skydiver may experience during their jump.
At this point it would seem moot to speculate as to what led to the accident; faulty equipment, the skydiver not deploying their chute, or something else. What is important to note is that skydiving is a risky endeavor however, innovations in equipment design in conjunction with regulatory bodies requiring a more stringent training process make it a safer prospect than it was a few years ago.
As of now the local authorities, police department and medical examiner alongside the FAA are investigating. Hopefully, the cause will become apparent soon.
According to Mr. Hayes, “You kind of hope throughout the investigation that you do find something. You hope that somebody comes up with an ah-ha! But, I’m not optimistic at this point.”
Skydive City is well known throughout the country and more than 70,000 jumps are completed there every year. The last time a fatality occurred at Skydive City was in 2013 and involved two men.