Capitol Alert

Skydiving centers face more lawsuits under law shaped by Lodi death

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 deadly accident at the Lodi Parachute Center shaped a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed Saturday that holds operators of skydiving companies responsible if uncertified instructors lead tandem jumps.

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, proposed the bill as a response to the August 2016 accident that killed first-time jumper Tyler Nicholas Turner, 18, of Los Banos and his tandem instructor, Yong Kwon, 25. Their parachute failed to open.

In a violation of federal guidelines, Kwon was not certified to lead tandem jumps by the United States Parachute Association, according to reviews of the accident.

Eggman's bill allows victims to sue skydiving companies if their instructors or employees who pack parachutes fall out of compliance with federal standards.

The bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate.

The parachute association filed mild opposition, writing a letter that called the bill duplicative of federal law and potentially unenforceable. Caltrans would be charged with levying penalties, according to the bill.

Eggman has argued that the bill gives local governments and the state an avenue to hold skydiving companies accountable for accidents.

“While (the parachute association) has taken steps to address the improper training, the fact still remains that the tandem instructor in (the August 2016) incident was not certified, and the operator should have the responsibility to the public for ensuring that instructors are qualified,” Eggman wrote to lawmakers in urging them to support the bill.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced in August that it would not sanction the Lodi Parachute Center because of the accident that killed Kwon and Turner. It determined that it could not punish the company for discrepancies it found in paperwork Kwon submitted to document his training.

Five people have died in skydiving accidents that originated with flights from the Lodi Parachute Center since 2016. Last week, Brett Hawton, 54, of Alamo, died from injuries he sustained during a solo jump.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton

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