FREMONT COUNTY – A young man visiting from Texas died Sunday in a skydiving mishap, just one day shy of his 18th birthday. According to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the teenager was skydiving with High Sky Adventures near the Fremont County Airport when the company reported an accident at 10:12 a.m. It was his first-ever skydive, and a solo attempt.
According to a press release from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the incident happened in a field south of U.S. Highway 50 near the intersection with State Highway 67. Witnesses, which included the teenager’s family members, raced to the site to render life-saving efforts, but the boy died at the scene.
According to the owner of High Sky Adventures, Skip Moreau, it is the first deadly mishap in the company’s 25-year history. Moreau told News 5 the boy had completed the required instructional training, which lasts 3.5 hours, and had been successfully executing a solo static-line jump with full parachute deployment, listening to and following instructions radioed to him from the ground, when suddenly he began spiraling out of control. “It was reported that a skydiver had troubles and hit the ground pretty hard,” said Fremont County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, Sergeant Megan Richards.
Moreau told News 5 that High Sky is not a member of the United States Parachute Association (USPA), a self-governing agency with voluntary membership, but does follow recommendations and protocol set by the USPA, which included a minimum age requirement of 18 to skydive. Since the young man was just hours away from turning 18, an exception to the rule was made and the parents, who were present, signed a liability waiver. According to the USPA, solo static-line jumps, in which the parachute is automatically deployed, are permissible and standard in training to become a licensed skydiver.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are assisting in the investigation into the incident. According to an FAA spokesperson, in the case of a skydiving accident, the agency’s role is to “examine the circumstances and route of the flight, the certification of the pilot, the airworthiness of the aircraft, and will ensure that the parachute was packed in accordance with regulations,” however the FAA “does not inspect or regulate skydiving companies, but we certificate parachute riggers.”
The name of the teenager killed has not been released. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.