FREMONT COUNTY – A 17-year-old boy is dead in Fremont County following a skydiving accident Sunday morning. While his name is not being released publicly at this time, News5 has confirmed today would be his 18th birthday.
The owner of High Sky Adventures, Skip Moreau, spoke to News5 in a telephone interview. He declined to go on camera. Moreau says his company allowed the teen to jump as he was one day shy of his 18th birthday, and his father approved of the jump by signing a waiver. The family is friends of the business owner who came to him to buy the skydiving experience as a birthday gift.
Moreau says the FAA was already on site today to review the equipment used and view the video. According to him, the FAA found nothing unusual. The owner says the teen was on a static line, which deployed the main parachute as the teen left the aircraft. He says he was on the radio with the customer the entire time. It started off normally with a full chute deployment until the teen started to spiral, and never pulled the cord for the secondary chute.
Moreau says the teen went through 3 hours of training on Saturday, but did not jump due to weather. The family came back on Sunday for another 1 hour session of re-orientation and to show he could follow procedures.
Out of 600-700 jumps a year, in 26 years of operation, Moreau says this is the first time the company has experienced a fatality. He confirmed the company follows United States Parachute Association standards, but are not a member of the voluntary organization. The USPA standards include not allowing jumps by anyone under 18-years-old. We’ll cover how the industry is regulated in just a moment.
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said the teen was found in a field south of Highway 50, near the intersection of Highway 50 and Phantom Canyon Road. Deputies said bystanders were attempting life-saving efforts when they arrived at the scene a little after 10 a.m. Sunday, but they were unsuccessful.
As this is very early in the investigation, there’s no determination on what happened during this dive. The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and the Fremont County coroner’s office are investigating the fall as an accident.
In regards to regulations for skydiving, “the FAA relies upon self policing from within the skydiving community for most training and operational requirements,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The government organization does have oversight of pilots, mechanics, and parachute riggers. In the case of a violation, the FAA “can fine the pilot, rigger, and the jumpers, as well as suspend or revoke the certificates of pilots and riggers.”
The United States Parachute Association is a voluntary group which provides basic guidelines for members. According to the USPA, the following procedures are used for first time jumpers: using a static line which the instructor pulls as the student jumps from the aircraft, a tandem freefall with an instructor, or an accelerated freefall where certified instructors hold onto the harness as the student demonstrates certain skills.
A spokesperson for the FAA passed on information about how these types of incidents are handled. The first step is to determine if any regulations were violated. That’s accomplished by looking into the circumstances of the flight, certifications, airworthiness of the aircraft, and parachute packing procedures.
If no federal regulations were violated it is up to the local law enforcement agency in which the incident occurred to make a decision on whether to pursue charges based on the evidence.