A veteran skydiver lost her life Sunday afternoon at the Lodi Parachute Center when her parachute failed to open. This, the latest in a series of unfortunate events, marks the fifth death in four years.
Last year, two other seasoned jumpers lost their lives. One crash landed at a nearby business, while the other failed to discharge his reserve chute in time after his line tangled upon release. In 2016, a Skydive plane carrying 17, crash landed in a nearby vineyard. Fortunately, this ended without serious injury. However, just three months later, two men died while in tandem. One, an 18 year old high school graduate on his first jump and his tandem ‘expert’.
With all this playing out heavily in the news, many residents are left questioning how and why this business is even operating.
Following the 2016 tandem incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted an extensive investigation. Concluding no fault to facility citing operator error. In fact, operator error appears to be the cause of almost all incidents reported.
Ask owner, Bill Dause, and he’ll tell you it is the risk of the sport. No one will argue jumping out of an airplane is dangerous, yet according to the U.S. Parachute Association (USPA) in 2017, of the 3.4 million jumps in the US, there were only 24 fatalities. This means your chances of dying while skydiving are 1 in 133,561.
With a less than 1% normal fatality rate, why then does Lodi Parachute Center continue to have a 13% fatality rate?
Oldest and Largest 365 Dropzone
Lodi Parachute Center operates 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It prides itself as “one of the oldest and largest parachute facility in the US” as well as being one of the cheapest.
In operation since 1964, Bill Dause has made himself and Lodi well known among the parachute community and is well respected. However, reviews on various sites report concerns with safety and maintenance of the facility. In fact, the FAA has issued over $933,000 in fines to Skydive Lodi relating to maintenance issues. Actually, it turns out the tandem ‘expert’ who died in 2016 with his 18 year old passenger did not have the required certification to lead a tandem skydive. Additionally, he was taught by someone with an suspended teaching certification. Consequently, tandem parachute credentials of 12 instructors were revoked. Another 128 instructors required to take a refresher course.
Just earlier this year, a surprise FBI raid seized credit card receipts, skydiver release forms and jump footage videos, but have yet to release specifics to the investigation.
Yes, skydiving is a dangerous sport. All who participate understand this and do so at their own risk, waivers in hand. Accidents are bound to happen. However, unmet maintenance standards and invalid teaching credentials don’t help to support the nature of safety required to keep the sport “safe.”