By Angela Musallam

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) — The skydiving victim who died Wednesday afternoon near Lodi may have had a problem deploying his parachute, according to his friend, officials with the U.S. Parachute Association.

The victim was identified Thursday morning as 42-year-old Matthew Ciancio of June Lake.

Officials speculate the victim may have not packed his parachute correctly, or somehow deployed it too late after his jump.

“I watched him dangle under his canopy, unresponsive not trying to fight it and he tumbled down and down,” said Gwillyn Hewetson, the victim’s friend.

Hewetson was on the same flight on Wednesday. He described watching Ciancio spiral out of control.

“He was 10 to 15 feet from the ground when he finally cut away from his main, by then it was too late,” said Hewetson.

The two have been flying together in their wing suits for more than two years. Hewetson says his friend was an experienced jumper, and says he believes Ciancio’s main parachute may have malfunctioned, causing it to open too fast.

“You’re going at a 120 miles-per-hour and for that to be stopped in an instant gives your body a huge shock,” said Hewetson.

“He had possibly a hard opening of his parachute and it began to spin. By the time he was able to release the main parachute he was too low on the ground,” speculated Jim Crouch, the director for safety and training with the U.S. Parachute Association.

CBS 13 asked Crouch what could cause a parachute to have a hard opening, he responded: “More than likely it was an error in the packing or possibly his body position as he deployed.”

Crouch says it’s uncommon for a hard opening to knock a skydiver out. It’s a killer hobby where one wrong move by even the highly experienced is all it takes to go down.

“Accidents happen and unfortunately are often fatal,” said Hewetson.

The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating Ciancio’s parachute for any indication of a malfunction. Officials are also looking into his certifications, and whether the parachute was in compliance of federal regulations.


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