The instructor killed Saturday in a tandem sky dive with an 18-year-old student near Lodi was not certified, a violation of federal regulations, according to the national certifying organization.
The United States Parachute Association has no record of certification for Yong Kwon, 25, of South Korea, said Executive Director Ed Scott.
Kwon and first-time jumper Tyler Nicholas Turner of Los Banos died after sky diving from a plane operating out of the Parachute Center in Acampo. Authorities said their parachute did not open and the two hit the ground.
Under federal regulations, the instructor is responsible for packing and maintaining the main parachute used in a tandem jump.
The fatalities have raised new questions about safety at the Parachute Center. While there is no official count of fatalities, a review of news stories shows that at least 17 people have died flying out of the center since owner Bill Dause started there in 1981.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor declined to comment about the lack of certification because the agency’s investigation is pending. Gregor confirmed that USPA is the only national organization recognized by the FAA to certify instructors for tandem parachute jumps.
He said it’s unclear whether Kwon had a foreign license or whether the FAA accepts such licenses.
The FAA and USPA are conducting separate investigations of the deaths. The USPA has suspended Dause’s license pending the outcome of its investigation, according to Scott.
The FAA has received a videotape of the jump from Turner’s mother, who paid for it prior to the jump.
Dause said Tuesday of Kwon, “He was certified by an instructor. There’s been some confusion about that.” He then hung up the phone.
During a second phone call, Dause was asked where Kwon received training.
“I’m not sure about that. You’ll have to ask him,” he said before hanging up.
He previously said Kwon was a veteran sky diver with about 700 jumps, according to The Associated Press.
USPA certifies tandem instructors only after they receive training from the association or a parachute manufacturer, Scott said. Neither the association nor the manufacturer has a record of Kwon receiving the training, he said.
Discovery of the unapproved instructor has heightened Scott’s concerns about the Parachute Center, he said.
“We’re unsure of his ability,” Scott said, referring to Kwon. “We want to know if there are others like him.”
Scott said he previously had no reason to question the center’s safety record. Nationwide, the vast majority of fatalities are the result of experienced sky divers making an error, he said.
The Parachute Center does not appear to have had an unusual amount of fatalities by first-time jumpers, especially since it has a busy operation open every day, he said.
In 2014, 24 people died in sky-diving incidents out of an estimated 3.2 million jumps, according to the USPA.
While Dause is licensed by the association, his business is not a member, Scott said. About a dozen of the roughly 240 sky-diving centers in the country are not affiliated with the association.
Dause has said he stopped paying membership dues for the center once the association raised them. But Scott said the association has no record of the Parachute Center ever being a member. He said the most expensive membership is $750 a year.
Sky-diving centers, including several in California, use association membership and certification in their promotional materials as proof of safe operations. “All of our instructors are USPA rated, many with over 2,000 sky dives,” Lincoln-based Skydive Sacramento says on its website.
Ray Ferrell, owner and president of SkyDance SkyDiving in Davis, makes safety a central part of his website, and notes that “high quality costs more. … If people knew what they were sacrificing for a cheaper sky dive at other drop zones, they would not consider it much of a bargain!” He charges $189 for a tandem jump, compared with $100 advertised at the Parachute Center.
Julia Drew, co-owner of Skydive Truckee Tahoe, said, “We use 100 percent USPA certified instructors. … We feel much more comfortable knowing that we are operating under industry standards.”
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Tyler Turner, second from left, is seen with friends Casey Nelson, left, Quinan Munoz, second from right, and Mario Muniz just prior to his fatal skydiving jump Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Lodi, Calif. Salazar Turner said her teenage son was an adventurous spirit who was willing to try just about anything, including the jump that was on his list of things to do in life.
"CBS This Morning" has learned a skydiving instructor involved in a deadly California accident last weekend was not certified by the United States Parachute Association.
The instructor -- 25-year-old Yong Kwon -- and 18-year-old Tyler Turner were killed during a tandem jump near Lodi, south of Sacramento. The FAA is investigating the case, which raises new questions about how skydiving is regulated, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.
For Tyler Turner, last Saturday was supposed to be a fun outing with friends, just weeks before the honors student was set to head off to college. His mother Francine Turner snapped a photo of him kneeling on the tarmac at the parachute center near Lodi.
"He was just the best kid. He had the neatest personality," said his mother. "He gave me a hug and said, 'I love you mom,' and I said, 'I love you son' and he got on the plane."
Those were his last words. At first, Francine thought her son had backed out of the jump, until she spotted emergency vehicles in an open field.
"The officer had come up and he said, 'the two people on the ground are deceased.' And I lost it," Turner said. "I just remember screaming and screaming, 'It can't be true.'"
It's believed Tyler and his instructor died after their shared parachute didn't open. According to the United States Parachute Association, more than 3 million people skydive in the U.S. every year. In 2015, 21 were killed -- one during a tandem jump.
"Skydiving will never be a perfectly safe thing to do," said Ed Scott, executive director of the USPA, a nonprofit organization which works with state and federal officials to promote skydiving safety.
"If you don't find a location listed on our site, you don't know what you're getting, you don't know what the standards are," Scott said. "The important factor with tandem skydiving is the certification and instructor."
The Parachute Center is not a member of the association and "CBS This Morning" was unable to locate any of the required certifications for the instructor.
"When you hear there may be a possibility he may not have been certified, what goes through your mind?" Villarreal asked.
"Anger, a lot of anger," Turner said.
Turner claims that earlier in the day, the facility sped through preflight procedures.
"It was like a McDonald's. You know, get your order and get out and watch half a video," Turner said.
The owner of the Parachute Center, Bill Dause, declined CBS News' repeated requests for comment, but spoke on the day of the crash.
"It's an unfortunate situation but if you see a car wreck, they don't close the freeway. It's something... unfortunately, in this sport and skiing and scuba diving, there are fatalities," Dause said.
Federal officials are now looking at everything from the parachute to the instructor's qualifications.
Story and video: http://www.cbsnews.com