The instructor who led a fatal tandem jump in Northern California earlier this month did not have the required parachuting certificate.
The 25-year-old instructor and an 18-year-old first-time jumper were killed.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires tandem-jump instructors to receive training and a certificate from the United States Parachute Association, which found no records of the instructor. Tandem-jump instructors are required to have three years of experience, made more than 500 jumps and completed a three-day tandem-jump course that includes 10 jumps.
The owner of the skydiving center said the instructor had been an independent contractor who had made about 700 jumps.
The teen was at the skydiving center celebrating with family and friends who watched him and the instructor plummet to the ground. Their parachute did not deploy until they hit the ground. Their bodies were found in a Lodi-area vineyard.
An exact cause of the incident will be determined by the Federal Aviation Administration.The FAA will try to determine if parachutes were properly packed, and who worker packed the parachute.
Over the years, the FAA has investigated multiple accidents at the skydiving center. In 2010, the FAA proposed a $664,000 penalty against skydiving center for allegedly failing to replace required parts on an airplane and failing to comply with safety airworthiness directives. The FAA alleged more than 2,000 flights were conducted despite parts being “well past their life limits.” Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood said the center was “putting parachutists at risk by neglecting to follow safety procedures is unacceptable.”
Skydiving involves inherent risks, but most skydiving accidents result from human error, according to the United States Parachute Association.
In 2014, the nonprofit United States Parachute Association recorded 24 fatal skydiving accidents in the U.S. out of about 3.2 million jumps — or 0.0075 fatalities per 1,000 jumps. Tandem skydiving has a better safety record, with 0.003 student fatalities per 1,000 tandem jumps over the past decade.
In 2014, USPA members reported 729 skydiving injuries out of roughly 3.2 million jumps. That is about 2.3 injuries per 10,000 skydives.
Although the number of skydiving fatalities per year decreased 25 percent between 2000 and 2013, mistakes still happen. If you or a loved one was injured, or if a family member was killed while skydiving, it may be the result of negligence or a defective parachute.
Every person harmed by a wrongful act, defective device or negligence deserves compensation. If you suspect a loved one was harmed or died as a result of such an act, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.