The usual buzz of excitement at Sydney Skydivers’ Wilton base was replaced by silence and sadness on Sunday, in the wake of a horror accident that saw two men plummet to their deaths.
Saturday’s tragedy, involving an experienced instructor and a student skydiver, took the number of fatalities at the site to seven in 16 years.
The pair were undertaking a tandem skydive when they crash landed onto the driveway of a rural property on Wilton Park Road.
Emergency services were alerted after a resident came across the scene and raised the alarm about 2pm.
The instructor, Adrian Lloyd, 60, and the student, 29-year-old Singaporean national Low Ke Wei, also known as Mario, were about one kilometre from their designated landing site – at the Sydney Skydivers drop zone, off Picton Road.
The pair were part of a group of skydivers who took off from the centre on Saturday. The rest of the group landed safely.
In a statement released on Sunday, Sydney Skydivers described the accident as an “extremely unusual event” and extended its sympathies.
“The particular skydive the two men were undertaking was not especially challenging for a highly experienced instructor, who had done nearly 10,000 skydives and had nearly 30 years experience in the sport,” the statement said.
“The jump was from normal height and it is not yet clear what occurred.”
The Australian Parachute Federation and police are investigating the accident.
Sydney Skydivers said skydiving was an “outdoor adventure activity” and “as safe as it can possibly be with the advancements in technology, training and safety”.
“We understand there are risks, and unfortunately, sometimes accidents do happen,” it said.
“This is the first fatality involving a first orientation tandem skydive the company has had in over 40 years of operation and is an extremely rare incident.”
While Saturday’s tragedy was the first death involving tandem skydivers, it wasn’t the first fatality at the Wilton site.
An experienced skydiver was killed after a mid-air collision with another parachutist in December 2012.
On that occasion, the pair were among a group of 17 skydivers who jumped out of a plane wearing squirrel-like gliding suits.
In July 2012, a man was critically injured when he slammed into the ground while attempting to perform a “swooping” move. He later died in hospital.
In another incident, a man died when he crash landed during a Christmas event on Boxing Day, 2005.
In September 2001, two men plunged to their deaths in two separate incidents just three hours apart.
The centre was closed on Sunday, but expected to reopen on Monday.
FULL STATEMENT FROM SYDNEY SKYDIVERS
We can confirm that a highly experienced instructor, along with a student skydiver undertaking a first orientation jump, were involved in a fatal accident yesterday (Saturday). The exact causes are under investigation and as yet are unknown.
Our sympathies go out to the families and friends of both men as well as those in our skydiving community. We are doing our best to ensure any support is provided to our staff, skydivers and those involved at the scene itself.
Our staff and expert accident investigators from The Australian Parachute Federation are assisting police with the investigation into what is an extremely unusual event. We thank the police and paramedics who have been so supportive of all those involved.
The sport of Skydiving is an outdoor adventure activity and it is as safe as it can possibly be with the advancements in technology, training and safety. We understand there are risks, and unfortunately, sometimes accidents do happen.
This is the first fatality involving a first orientation Tandem skydive the company has had in over 40 years of operation and is an extremely rare incident.
The particular skydive the two men were undertaking was not especially challenging for a highly experienced instructor, who had done nearly 10,000 skydives and had nearly 30 years experience in the sport. The jump was from normal height and it is not yet clear what occurred.
The centre will be closed today, Sunday, out of respect and to ensure we look after all those involved. We thank everyone for their understanding and patience as investigations continue into the cause of this very sad and tragic event.