Fourth skydiving death at Colorado airport in less than a year under investigation

Saturday morning a pilot at Longmont, Colorado’s Vance Brand Airport was looking west when a skydiver who appeared to be in trouble caught his attention.

The man, who declined to have his name published, claimed to have seen the fatal skydiving accident which left one man dead. According to the pilot, the skydiver’s canopy looked “distorted” and his flare was straight down, which indicated that the skydiver could be having problems.

“When he hit the ground, I saw dust come up,” he said. “I called 911 right away. I was shocked.”

Skydiving continued Saturday at Vance Brand Municipal Airport as first responders investigated the scene where a skydiver lost his life.

Authorities are continuing to investigate the skydiving accident. The death is the fourth stemming from jumps there in less than a year. Meanwhile, city officials said they will be working closely with the Federal Aviation and Administration to see what if any actions may be warranted.

Longmont police Sgt. John Wederquist confirmed that rescue personnel were called at 10:16 a.m., on reports of a man in his 30s who was not breathing and not conscious. The man’s identity has not yet been released.

“From all accounts, his ‘chute was functioning properly,” Wederquist said. “He just misjudged his swooping landing, and impacted the ground hard.”

Wederquist said that nurses, who happened to be at the airport, attempted to revive the man, but were not successful in doing so. He was taken to Longmont United Hospital and pronounced dead there at about 10:45 a.m., according to Wederquist.

The FAA has been notified of the incident, Wederquist said, but he added that federal investigators might not be involved until Monday.

The airport has been the scene of three prior fatal accidents in the past year, two in which skydivers were killed immediately, and a third in which the victim died nine months later from complications stemming from his injuries.

Simla, Colorado, resident Logan Polfuss, 23, was killed in a fall Oct. 18, when he had jumped with eight other skydivers hosted by Mile-Hi Skydiving. His body was not recovered until the following day.

The FAA subsequently ruled the death of Pulfuss, a veteran of hundreds of jumps, an accident, writing that the one-piece tracking suit Polfuss used might have caused issues during the jump.

Timothy DeTine of Littleton, Colorado, 57, died in a fall there on May 11. When the fatality came to light several days later, Mile-Hi Skydiving in Longmont did not respond to requests for comment on the incident, and it was not immediately confirmed that Mile-Hi was involved, but it is the only skydiving company that operates out of Vance Brand Municipal Airport.

It was just earlier this week that a third death stemming from skydiving at Vance Brand was made public. Patrick Gire, 40, died June 17, his family confirmed, from complications stemming from a skydiving mishap at the airport that occurred at the airport on Sept. 21, 2018.

Gire had about 6,500 jumps to his credit since taking up the pursuit more than 10 years ago, his family said. Family members said many of his jumps were as an instructor, more recently, a videographer with the Vance Brand Municipal Airport-based Mile-Hi Skydiving operation.

Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley said David Slayter, the city’s airport manager had been notified by Mile-Hi Skydiving of the fatality.

Bagley said the skydiving deaths have raised concerns.

“I don’t know what action the city should or could take at this point, given that it has been a couple of minutes (since receiving the information)  but four skydiving deaths in a year seems disproportionately high,” Bagley said. “As we gather information, we will be considering what actions should we be taking and (looking) at communications with the FAA, etc., in order to prevent future skydiving deaths.”

Sandra Seader, assistant city manager, echoed that the city would be working with the FAA.

“Certainly, we are saddened to hear the news,” Seader said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. This is an FAA investigation. We will be keeping in close touch with them and we will be looking forward to hearing the results of the investigation.”

Despite multiple requests, Mile-Hi Skydiving declined to provide comment about how the business will respond to the death.

The skydiving operation’s attorneys also did not respond to request for comment before publication deadline.