Skydiver died after he turned too low - expert

2015-04-05 14:33

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Pretoria - The Italian skydiver who died during a competition jump at Wonderboom Airport had over 1 100 skydives under his belt, Mark Bellingan, national safety and training officer for the Parachute Association of South Africa, said on Sunday.

Thirty nine-year-old Antonio Bianco - part of security services at Italian consul in Johannesburg - was participating in the SA National Championships in Canopy Piloting on Saturday morning when he died during a jump.

"During a competition jump, and while under a fully functional and inflated parachute, he performed a turn too low to the ground and impacted the water of the pond. Mr Bianco sustained fatal injuries due to the impact," said Bellingan.

Two doctors were at the drop zone at the time of the accident with fire brigade and airport emergency services on the scene within two minutes.

Canopy piloting

He explained that canopy piloting involves a series of tasks designed to test a parachutist's ability to control his canopy and fly accurately.

Each test starts with the parachutist navigating through a number of gates which are situated over water.

"The parachutist has one of three goals, depending on the task; complete the course in the shortest time, therefore having the highest speed; complete the water section and then land on a target as accurately as possible; achieve the longest distance from the entry gate before touching down," said Bellingan.

It requires that participants land their parachutes at high speed, faster than traditional parachute landings and this makes the landings more dangerous.

This is usually done over a "swoop pond", which is a shallow, artificial pond about one metre deep.

"Errors in judgement during these high speed landings can result in serious or fatal injuries," said Bellingan.

No malfunction

Earlier Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said it seemed that his parachute malfunctioned and he started spiralling and hit the ground.

Bellingan, who said he is conducting an investigation into Bianco's death for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), disagreed with this.

Mogale said the outcome of an investigation would ultimately determine what happened.

A spokesperson for the CAA was not immediately available to add comment.

The Consulate where Bianco worked did not want to comment immediately.

Eugene Potgieter, chairperson of the Johannesburg Skydiving Club, which Bianco belonged to, told News24 he was a very friendly person who would be missed.

"He was a much loved guy and he was very popular amongst the skydivers," said Potgieter.

They would hold a memorial skydive in his honour.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  accidents

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