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Lodi skydiving deaths prompt order to retrain 140 instructors

This Aug. 6 photo provided by Francine Salazar Turner shows her son Tyler Turner, second from left, with his friends Casey Nelson, left, Quinan Munoz, second from right, and Mario Muniz just before his fatal skydiving jump in Lodi.
This Aug. 6 photo provided by Francine Salazar Turner shows her son Tyler Turner, second from left, with his friends Casey Nelson, left, Quinan Munoz, second from right, and Mario Muniz just before his fatal skydiving jump in Lodi. AP

Nearly 140 tandem skydiving instructors must undergo retraining following a fatal accident at the Parachute Center near Lodi on Aug. 6.

The United States Parachute Association announced the move Thursday, nearly a month after first-time jumper Tyler Nicholas Turner, 18, of Los Banos and his instructor, Yong Kwon, 25, of South Korea, died in a tandem jump at the center when their chute didn’t open.

The USPA has said it had no record of certification for Yong as tandem instructor. Failure to be certified is a violation of federal regulations.

“In the interest of public safety, USPA is taking steps to ensure that all of approximately 140 tandem instructors and candidates affected can demonstrate proper emergency procedures,” the association said in a news release Thursday.

The deaths of Turner and Kwon and subsequent information led the association to conclude that a number of candidates who attended tandem instructor courses conducted by Rob Pooley or Yuri Garmashov at the Parachute Center and other sites were not properly taught or certified, according to the news release.

“Post-course rating applications may have been submitted under false pretenses or with forged signatures since, in some cases, the course examiner had been suspended and was not authorized to conduct courses,” the news release said.

While there is no official count of fatalities, a review of news stories showed that at least 17 people have died flying out of the Parachute Center since owner Bill Dause started there in 1981.

Dause and Pooley have had their USPA memberships and all USPA ratings suspended, and Garmashov has had his USPA tandem examiner rating suspended, pending an investigation, the association said.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at the center Thursday evening said he had not seen the USPA’s news release and hung up.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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