Yolo County News

Skydiver dies in Yolo County jump

A skydiver plunged to his death near the Yolo County Airport on Sunday morning after his main parachute apparently malfunctioned and he failed to properly activate the reserve chute.

Ray Ferrell, president of airport-based SkyDance SkyDiving, said the unidentified man encountered difficulties after dropping out of a plane with more than a dozen other skydivers.

“It appears he had some sort of malfunction with his main canopy (chute),” he said. “We’re not exactly sure what happened.”

Cherie Rita, chief of the West Plainfield Fire Department, said volunteer firefighters responded to a report of “a hard landing just north of the airport.” The Yolo County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the 10:45 a.m. incident.

Ferrell said fellow skydivers who had jumped out of the plane with the man called emergency crews after touching down. One of the divers, a trained emergency medical technician, performed CPR . Another jumper, a nurse, assisted before authorities arrived and the man was pronounced dead, he said.

The accident followed two other fatal incidents, in 2013 and 2009, at the popular skydiving location.

In August 2013, Andrew Cofer, 23, of Lodi suffered fatal injuries on impact after falling out of his harness in midair. In June 2009, Ken Knigge, 48, of Martinez died after his parachute became entangled with the chute of another skydiver during a group maneuver at the American Bookie festival, an event hosted by SkyDance SkyDiving.

Ferrell said the Yolo skydiving firm does 30,000 jumps a year.

“This is very rare,” he said of Sunday’s parachuting death. “The equipment is very reliable, and it’s safe if you use it properly. But it’s a very unforgiving sport if you do it wrong.”