There has been a double fatality in Eloy, Arizona on Tuesday 3 December during the world record 200-way attempts. It was the last jump of the day, around 5pm. There was a canopy collision at about 150 feet, both canopies collapsed and their owners impacted hard. One person died immediately, the other was taken to hospital but died soon afterwards.
Both were very experienced and conservative canopy pilots. The winds were predictable, both pilots were landing in the correct direction, following the tetrahedron. They were landing away from the grass landing areas, as normal for a big-way. From what we know at this time neither pilot appears to be at fault, they were not jockeying for position.
There was a third, completely unrelated landing incident on the same jump. Another skydiver was injured from a hard landing. Some of the news stories make it sound like this person was also in the collision but this is not the case.
Formation wise, lots of progression was made towards the goal of a record. Wednesday 4 December will see the start of formal sequential world record attempts. The group has been jumping as a 200-way but are now downsizing, with the aim of putting the first sequential record in the books, and then going larger to increase the size of the record.
The names of the deceased were withheld until their families were notified but have now been confirmed as British jumper Kieron O’Rourke and German Bernd Schmehl. Our hearts go out to the friends and families of Kieron and Bernd. It’s a tragic day for the sport. Our thoughts are with the big-way group and the P3 Skydiving organisers at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. We hope they can find a way to put this tragedy behind them and build a record in honour of their fallen comrades.