Parachutes didn’t open in Lodi tandem skydiving deaths last month

Two men die in tandem skydiving accident near Lodi

August 2016: San Joaquin Sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Riley confirmed the deaths of two men during a tandem jump at the Parachute Center in Acampo.
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August 2016: San Joaquin Sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Riley confirmed the deaths of two men during a tandem jump at the Parachute Center in Acampo.

A sky-diving instructor and a first-time jumper plummeted to their deaths after the instructor’s main and emergency parachutes failed to open during a tandem jump near Lodi last month, the Federal Aviation Administration has found.

The problems started when a small parachute used to pull out the main chute did not fully inflate, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in a written statement this week. A backup parachute also failed to open, he said.

The one-page statement is an account of what FAA investigators have learned so far about the Aug. 6 fatalities near the Parachute Center in Acampo, Gregor said. The instructor, Yong Kwon, 25, of South Korea, and the young man he was carrying on the tandem jump, Tyler Nicholas Turner, 18, of Los Banos, crashed to the ground.

The agency is still trying to determine what actions, if any, to bring against the Parachute Center and its owner, Bill Dause. Gregor said it’s not clear when the FAA will complete its investigation.

Kwon and Turner jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet without problems until the small starter parachute, called a drogue, failed to fully inflate, Gregor said.

The two had descended approximately 10,000 feet before Kwon released the backup parachute. The backup parachute became tangled with the drogue for the main parachute, and did not properly deploy, Gregor said.

It’s not clear what caused the drogue for the main parachute to fail, he said. Both the main and backup parachutes appear to have been packed correctly, Gregor said.

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 Dause started there in 1981.

Kwon did not have proper certification for tandem sky diving, according to the United States Parachute Association. The person who trained Kwon had his teaching license suspended by the association.

The lack of proper training for Kwon led the association to notify 140 instructors around the world to update their training credentials, because they received instructor from the same person as Kwon or another instructor at the Parachute Center.

The association is conducting an investigation of the center, separate from the FAA investigation.

The FAA sought to fine Dause almost $1 million for alleged mechanical violations several years ago, but Dause refused to settle the claims and it’s unclear what happened after the FAA forwarded the claims to the U.S. attorney’s office.