ACAMPO (CBS13) — Skydiving instructors say a man who was knocked unconscious in midair didn’t use an important piece of equipment that could have saved his life.
The accident happened at around 1 p.m. at the Parachute Center near North Highway 99 in Acampo. The owner said four friends from the Nevada-Tahoe area came to jump—two were experienced skydivers with 400 jumps.
Wearing inflatable suits for faster speeds, the pair jumped at the same time.
“One person turned right and the other turned left and they happened to run into each other,” Parachute Center owner Bill Dause.
One of them landed safely, albeit with a broken leg. But the unconscious man’s parachute never opened. He landed in a field 1.5 miles off-course.
It’s at least the ninth skydiving fatality at the Parachute Center in the last decade. Instructors say this midair mishap shouldn’t have turned deadly.
An automatic activation device detects speed and altitude. If a skydiver doesn’t open their parachute in time, the device does it for them.
“I’ve never jumped without it, and I have 1,000-some skydives,” said instructor Richard Smith. “He’s an experienced enough skydiver to make his own decisions.”
Instructors were surprised to learn the man who died on Tuesday wasn’t wearing the device.
“Obviously it was an error on their part and a miscommunication,” Dause said.
The automatic activation devices can cost upward of $1,500, leading some jumpers to not buy one.
In the last the Federal Aviation Administration has fined the Parachute Center $269,000 for allegedly operating a place without required inspections, and $664,000 for allegedly failing to replace parts in another plane.