Pasco Sheriff's Office on Zephyhills skydiver deaths: Instructor tried to save student
Cary Williams , Erik Waxler , Associated Press
11:28 AM, Mar 26, 2013
6:01 PM, Mar 26, 2013
ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. -
A skydive instructor was trying to save a student who apparently had passed out when they crashed to the Earth during a jump over Zephyrhills last weekend, according to Pasco County Sheriff's detective William Lindsey.
The tragedy occurred during an instructional jump on Saturday.
The conclusion is based, in part, on the instructor's helmet camera video.
The student, 25-year-old student Andrimar Pordarson, apparently lost consciousness during his descent. The instructor, 41-year-old instructor Orvar Arnarson, managed to reach him. But, it was too late.
The victims' families have asked that the video not be released.
Both Porarson and Arnarson were from Iceland.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is expected to provide an update later today on the investigation into the weekend deaths of two skydivers in Zephyrhills. A detective involved in the case, William Lindsey, is also expected speak at today's media briefing.
The county medical examiner's office said Monday the two skydivers died from blunt trauma. The deaths were ruled accidental.
Authorities said they were reviewing footage from a helmet camera worn by a skydive instructor during his fatal jump. It wasn not immediately clear if that video will be a primary topic at the news conference.
41-year-old instructor Orvar Arnarson and 25-year-old student Andrimar Pordarson died Saturday. The two had successfully completed two jumps earlier that day but did not return from their third. The men jumped separately, not in tandem.
The co-owner of the skydive facility said the men did not deploy their main parachutes.
Both men had backup automatic activation devices, but they didn't have time to fully inflate.
Sheriff's officials hope to get autopsy results Monday from the medical examiner.
The victims were part of a skydiving group from Iceland who travel to Florida annually.
Deputies found the bodies of the skydiving instructor and a student Saturday after the two didn't return from a jump with a group, setting off an hours-long air and ground search around the Zephyrhills facility, about 30 miles northeast of Tampa.
The fact that the men didn't deploy their main parachutes could mean that they lost altitude awareness and didn't know where they were during the dive, which is unusual, said T.K. Hayes, co-owner of Skydive City.
Hayes was at the scene with officials Saturday, sorting through the men's gear to determine whether all parts had been functioning properly.
"Like most accidents, most of the time it's human error," he said. "I doubt there's an equipment problem here, to be honest." But he stressed that authorities were still investigating.
The bodies were discovered by spotters from the air early Saturday evening in woods south of the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, Snow said.
Arnarson, the instructor, had been to the facility before, but Pordarson had not, Hayes said.
The area is a popular destination for skydivers. Skydive City is a 14-acre property that includes RV campgrounds, a tiki bar, cafe and regular shows by a reggae band, according to its website.
Hundreds of skydivers jump each day at the site this time of year. Hayes estimates that overall, the facility assists about 75,000 jumps a year. Accidents are rare, but they happen, he said.
Last year, Dr. T. Elaine McLaughlin died on a jump at Skydive City on New Year's Day after her chute failed to open properly. She was a resident of the Tampa Bay area and practiced family medicine in St. Petersburg.
Last year across the U.S., 19 skydivers died out of 3.1 million jumps, according to the United States Parachute Association.
"As an industry, the safety record continues to improve as the decades go on as we improve training and equipment ... but it's not a fail-safe sport," Hayes said.
Last month, near Seattle, dozens of volunteers spent four days searching through snowy weather and fog after a 29-year-old Florida man didn't return from a skydiving jump above Washington's Cascade foothills.
Kurt Ruppert, of Lake City, was wearing a special wing suit with fabric under the arms to allow him to glide like a flying squirrel.
"With skydiving of course the consequences of small mistakes are going to be pretty grave," Hayes said.