FAA investigating latest Eloy skydiving accident

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jan 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 01:13:33-05

The death of a skydiver Thursday in Eloy may have involved the failure of the parachute in flight, according to witnesses and the skydive company, which is defending its safety record.

Geoffrey Loy, 34, of Boulder, Colo. died in the crash. He is described as an experienced skydiver.

"Everybody is telling us the descent was normal until about 100 feet off the ground when it looks like the parachute collapsed," said Eloy police Sgt. Brian Jerome.

This was the seventh experienced skydiver to die at Skydive Arizona since December 2013, according to Pinal County Medical Examiner records.

Skydive Arizona confirmed the following:

-Two collided

-Three pulled the wrong chute or failed to pull in time

-The two most recent cases involve parachutes collapsing too late for the skydiver to deploy the reserve chute

"They are both really unusual. They just stand out because they are so close together in time and so similar on the surface," Skydive Arizona's safety and training advisor Bryan Burke said. 

While the FAA continues its investigation of Loy's death, Burke said he noticed the parachute "was very worn and a critical area of it tore. That's the first time that's happened here."

"Anytime we do an investigation, we will collect the parachute and any of the rigging or the equipment that goes with it, and the FAA does an inspection of the parachute and issues a report," Sgt. Jerome said.

An industry spokeswoman says people who have hundreds or thousands of jumps under their belt are actually more likely to make deadly mistakes.

"They push their own personal limits to do more things and to do better things," said Nancy Koreen of the U.S.  Parachute Association. “Often that's when accidents happen when someone gets beyond their skill level."

Koreen says there were approximately 2.2 million safe jumps and only a handful of deadly injuries nationwide last year.

The Federal Aviation Administration not only investigates accidents, it regulates skydiving pilots and planes, and the agency certifies reserve parachute packers.

The FAA will cite skydiving companies that fail to follow regulations, but Burke says Skydive Arizona has not been cited.

"We actually get along really well with the FAA because we do follow the rules," Burke said. While jumping out of a plane is inherently dangerous, Burke said very few serious accidents involve skydiving students.