Skydiving world record jump attempt continues despite German’s death

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 9:49pm

A German skydiver died while jumping with 221 others as they attempted to set a world record for a group-formation team.

Diana Paris, 46, of Berlin - an experienced parachutist who had made 1,500 jumps - was killed after her main parachute failed and she did not have time to fully open her reserve chute.

She was taking part in the first attempt by the World Team group to set the record above the Arizona desert, near Eloy, about 105kilometres south of Phoenix, in the southwestern United States.

Yesterday they were planning to continue trying to beat the record - but with only 221skydivers rather than 222, said Gulcin Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the group.

"Our dear friend cannot and will not be replaced. The group will continue to hold the slot open in the skydiver's honour," she said.

Jocelyn Bernatchez, a spokeswoman for SkyDive Arizona, a skydiving facility where the attempt took place, said of Thursday's accident: "The malfunctioning parachute was released too low to allow the reserve parachute to fully open."

Bernatchez said the plane involved had been functioning properly, and that weather conditions in the area were good at the time of the accident.

The team of 222 veteran skydivers from 28 countries had come to the popular US facility to try to break a record for the largest number of people to complete two aerial formations before deploying their parachutes. The previous record was set by 110 skydivers last year in Florida.

Skydivers were jumping at an altitude of about 6,000 metres and reached average freefall speeds of 190 km/h.

Organisers said safety had been the most important thing in their minds during the planning and execution of the complicated manoeuvre, which had taken 18months to organise.

As part of the plan, the skydivers, dressed in multi-coloured jumpsuits, were taken aloft by 10 aircraft and had 80seconds to complete the kaleidoscope-like formations before opening their chutes.

After Paris' death, the team performed a special jump in her honour involving a manoeuvre called a missing man formation.

The German's death was third during an attempt to break the world skydiving record at the Arizona facility since December.

Two skydivers - Briton Keiron O'Rourke, 40, and Bernd Schmehl, 51, of Germany - were killed in what authorities ruled was an accident, after they collided at a height of about 60 to 90 metres.

They had been jumping with 200 skydivers from another group.