Woman who died while skydiving remembered as 'special person'

CHESTER, SC (WBTV) - A woman who was killed in a skydiving accident during the annual CarolinaFest skydiving event in Chester County Thursday afternoon has been identified.

According to the Chester County Coroner's Office, 68-year-old Carolyn Clay received "blunt force trauma" in connection with the accident. Clay was from Williamsburg, Virginia.

According to Chester County Emergency Medical Services, officials were dispatched to Skydive Carolina in Chester around 3:30 p.m. in reference to a "hard landing" call. Officials with SkyDive Carolina released a statement around 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening acknowledging that Clay was a "highly experienced" skydiver.

The release said Clay completed more than 15,000 skydives, but friends told WBTV that she had more than 19,300 jumps under her belt and was "working her butt off" to cross the 20,000 mark by her 70th birthday.

Jim Crouch, owner of Virginia Skydiving Center and Director of Safety & Training for the United States Parachute Association, has known Clay for many years.

"Carolyn was just a special person. She was a huge icon in the sport of skydiving, but she would always be the first person to grab newly licensed jumpers after they finished their primary training and help them continue learning," Crouch said. "Even after 19,300 jumps and 324 hours of freefall time, she was humble and just loved to jump with anyone."

"The skydiving community is really taking her loss hard," he continued. "She was truly loved by thousands of people around the globe."

Thursday night, officials with Skydive Carolina said Clay deployed her main parachute but experienced a malfunction.

Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker says Clay's main parachute opened and she went into a spin and died from blunt force trauma after hitting the ground.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident but said the investigation would only focus on the packing of the parachute.

Crouch says Clay started skydiving in 1969 as a "cure for boredom" when she was stationed at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. She also took part in Jump for the Cause, a charity group that raised money for cancer research and treatment.

Photo provided by friends

She was given the nickname "The Queen of Skydiving" in the late 1980s.

"Her can-do attitude and positive spirit is inspirational, and her poise and compassion during challenging times is admirable," Crouch said. "[She] truly is the Queen of Skydiving."

CarolinaFest is an annual event that began on Tuesday. The event is expected to run until Sunday.

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