Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fatal accident occurred August 06, 2016 in Acampo, San Joaquin County, California

The identity has been confirmed of the skydiving instructor killed over the weekend during a jump that also claimed the life of an 18-year-old Los Banos man.

South Korean native Yong Kwon, 25, was the instructor who died Saturday along with recent Pacheco High School graduate Tyler Turner, according to the San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office.

Sgt. Mike Reynolds said Tuesday the deaths were under investigation.

The accident at the Parachute Center in Acampo, near Lodi, is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to agency spokesman Ian Gregor.

Turner’s mother, Francine Salazar, said she was present when an instructor told Turner and others they didn’t need to finish watching a safety video shown beforehand.

Bill Dause, owner of the Parachute Center, told the Sun-Star that he was “pretty sure” the group watched the whole video because it plays on a continuous loop, but he couldn’t be sure.

However, Dause said whether they finished the video wouldn’t have changed the tragedy’s outcome.

An FAA inspector arrived in Acampo on Monday to examine a parachute and also attempted to review video that may have recorded Turner’s jump, Gregor said in an email to the Los Banos Enterprise.

Salazar said she paid for video of Turner’s jump, but the video was taken into evidence.

That inspector continued the investigation and obtained the video Tuesday, Gregor said.

According to data from the U.S. Parachuting Association, skydiving deaths have on average decreased since 2000. The rate of fatalities was 7.5 per 1 million jumps, in 2014.

Ed Scott, executive director of USPA, said the USPA doesn’t track fatalities by location because “it would simply show what is intuitive; the busiest skydiving locations also have the most accidents.”

Scott also said nearly all accidents are the result of acts or errors made by the individual skydivers.

The FAA has investigated a number of past accidents at the Parachute Center, Gregor said.

“The FAA’s role in these investigations is typically to determine whether the parachutes were properly packed by the appropriate person” in accordance with federal regulations, Gregor said.

The FAA has never taken enforcement action related to past skydiving accidents against the Parachute Center, Gregor said. However, the FAA has proposed two fines totaling $933,000 for failing to follow airworthiness directives for aircraft.

“We were unable to reach a settlement with the company and referred the cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Gregor said.

Federal prosecutors couldn’t confirm the status of the cases.

When asked about the status of the cases on Tuesday, Dause said the center has never been fined and he knows nothing about the case.

More than 150 people supported Turner’s family during a vigil held Sunday evening.

Salazar thanked the crowd and asked for individuals to tell their personal stories of Turner, who graduated in June with honors from Pacheco High.

Turner planned to study biomedical engineering at UC Merced in the fall, earning enough Advanced Placement credit to start as a sophomore, Salazar said.

Tyler Turner, 18, of Los Banos, Calif., was killed Saturday while skydiving in Lodi, Calif., according to his mother, Francine Salazar. Turner, pictured here in June at commencement ceremonies for Pacheco High School in Los Banos, where he graduated with honors. He planned to attend UC Merced in the fall.

One of two skydivers killed Saturday was an 18-year-old Los Banos, Calif., man who graduated from high school just two months ago and was jumping for the first time, his mother said Sunday in an interview with the Merced Sun-Star.

According to Francine Salazar, the young man who died while skydiving in Lodi, Calif., was her son, Tyler Turner.

She said the other man killed during the tandem jump was an instructor. Salazar was there watching for her son as jumpers came out of the plane. He was there with several friends celebrating a birthday, she said.

“Before he got on the plane, he knelt down and prayed, made his peace with God, and then turned around and gave me a great big, huge hug,” Salazar said. “He said, ‘I love you, Mom,’ and then he got on the plane.”

She never saw him come down.

“I was watching everybody coming down; they look like little dots and you can’t tell who is who. We didn’t know what color his ’chute was,” she said. “I asked everyone where he was and nobody panicked or anything, we just started looking for him. He went really far off course.”

Salazar said she was troubled before the jump because, she said, an instructor told the boys they did not need to finish watching the safety video shown beforehand. She said she was there and witnessed the instructor tell the group: “Oh, you don’t need to watch that,’” she said.

“I don’t know why they have it if they don’t need to watch it,” Salazar told the Sun-Star.

Bill Dause, owner of the Lodi Parachute Center, told the Sun-Star he was “pretty sure” the group watched the whole film before jumping, but acknowledged he couldn’t be sure.

“It (the video) plays on a continuous loop, it plays continuously, so I’m pretty sure they saw it,” he said in a telephone interview. “But, it wouldn’t have made any difference (if they didn’t). It was an unfortunate accident.”

Dause said he sympathized with Salazar, but insisted whether her son had seen the video or not, it would not have prevented Saturday’s tragedy.

“I know she’s grasping for reasons,” he said, “and we’re just as upset about it as everybody is.”

Salazar said she paid to have her son’s jump videotaped, but said the Federal Aviation Administration took the tape as part of its investigation.

An exact cause will be determined by the FAA.

Turner graduated in June with honors from Pacheco High School in Los Banos. He planned to attend UC Merced in the fall to study biomedical engineering, his mother said. Her son took advanced placement courses in high school, performed exceptionally well and, she said, was going to begin his college career as a sophomore.

“He’d earned the credits to do that. He was born with cerebral palsy and he wanted to do something to help others with the condition,” she said. “He was going to find something that would help people. He was going to change the world.”

Salazar said Turner was the youngest of four children – an older sister, Tiffany, and two older brothers, Todd and Troy. He also is survived by his young niece, Charlie Ray.

She said the friends that were with her son on Saturday were going to be his college roommates in a campus apartment.

“He was an incredibly strong boy, had integrity like nobody else,” she said. “Live your life like he would’ve. He was an incredible boy.”

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Bill Dause, owner of the Lodi Parachute Center, speaks to media after two men died in a tandem parachuting accident Saturday morning, Aug. 6, 2016.

Two men died in a tandem skydiving accident around 10 a.m. near the Parachute Center in Acampo on Saturday.

“We had reports of a parachuting incident and we don’t know exact cause, said San Joaquin Sheriff’s Lt. Randy Johnson.The accident took place near Highway 99 and East Peltier Road.

Both men were the in their early 20s, Lt. Johnson said. He said the FAA is handling the investigation.

Bill Dause, owner of the Lodi Parachute Center, spoke about the incident at the end of the day:

“We had an unfortunate incident this morning, around ten o’clock. With the respect to the families, I am not going to give out any names. There were two fatalities, it was a tandem. It was an experienced jumper, he had over 700 jumps. He had been doing tandems for quite some time. And the passenger’s family was out here, which was a really unfortunate situation. There was a couple of brothers, a mother, and family. So it was a real sad situation for everybody."

Dause had no details of what went wrong during the jump.

"Unfortunately, I don’t have any information other than what the camera person said. It looked like he did things out of sequence. The FAA won’t let us get close to the equipment or the personnel, they treat it like a crime scene. So other than that I really don’t have any information.”

Dause said the jumper was not a staff member, but one of the jumpers at the center. He describes him as a freelancer.  

He said the passenger was 18 or 19 years old, a first-time jumper, and the tandem jumper was described as a man under 30. Dause said the pair had a back-up chute.

”From what I understand, he didn’t pull the right handles at the right time. That’s speculation on my part, which I really don’t want to do. It looked like it was an out-of-sequence deployment.”

When asked why they didn’t close down the center, he explained: “Well, it’s an unfortunate situation, but if you see a car wreck, they don’t close down the freeway. It’s something in this sport ...  in scuba diving, in skiing, there are fatalities, people pushing the envelope in some cases, in some cases pure accidents. But they don’t stop scuba diving, they don’t stop skiing. We didn’t stop because we didn’t like the guy, we didn’t stop because we weren’t interested in the guy, we didn’t stop, because life goes on.”

Jonathan Flores, of Salida, visited the center earlier in the day. He said he was a member of the parachute group Four Battalion USA, and the group had previously done jumps at the facility.

"Unfortunately this happens. (In February) another guy hit the wall. It's not the first time."

He said he has three children, and the recent incidents have affected him: "It affects me, I wonder if I want to do it again. It's a great sport, but you never know if it's going to be safe enough for you."

"I am very sorry to hear this happened. Another brother from the air passed away."

At the end of the tragic day, a large group of jumpers at the center lined up for one last jump, in honor of their friend and the passenger, who lost their lives that day. They stuck white roses into their harnesses, which they were going to release on their way down. As they completed the jump, one by one they landed on the large grassy field at the center.

Daniele Vitorino, from Brazil, was one of the jumpers. She was emotional as she talked about her friend:

“He was our friend. We just did a jump for him.”

She spoke of the incident earlier in the day: “It can happen, skydiving is a pretty safe sport, but it can happen. He loved what he was doing. It was a big passion… It is a big passion for all of us. He loved what he did.” She said about the jump in his honor: “It was really sad, because we just jumped two weeks ago.”

The identities of the victims have not yet been released.

In May, A Cessna 208 plane carrying skydiving passengers made an emergency landing in a vineyard near the 4800 block of Jahant Road north of Lodi, just east of Highway 99.

Seventeen skydiving passengers were on board, but only minor injuries were reported.

On February 13, 2016, a solo skydiver died after a parachute malfunction at the same center.  Dause said he hadn’t heard anything yet about any of the incidents, saying it takes about six months for the FFA to release their findings.

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Two men died in a skydiving accident Saturday morning near Lodi.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office received a call around 10 a.m. about the accident near the Acampo-based Parachute Center, said Sgt. Brandon Riley.

The two men were attempting a tandem jump, Riley said. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the accident. The victims’ identities have not yet been released.

Parachute Center owner Bill Dause declined to comment Saturday afternoon at his facility.

Chris Conkright, 55, of Acampo, said he did three tandem skydives Saturday, all after hearing about the deaths.

“I’m not happy about it, but it’s part of the deal, I guess,” said Conkright, who has jumped at the center for 21 years.

“I know too many people who have died parachuting,” he added. “You’re jumping out of a plane. It’s part of the territory.”

Federal authorities investigated a plane crash at the center in May in which no one was injured. The Federal Aviation Administration has twice challenged and proposed fines for not maintaining a plane and otherwise failing to follow regulations. The center’s owner denied the allegations.

Professional skier Timy Dutton died while skydiving out of the Acampo center in 2014. His parachute didn’t open, according to media reports.

Conkright vouched for the center.

“They’re great,” he said. “It’s a good operation – good equipment, good staff. I don’t know what happened exactly (Saturday).”

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