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Coroner identifies man killed in skydiving accident in Chester County

Deputies and emergency responders were called to the scene around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 1:36 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:47 PM EDT
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CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) – The coroner has identified the man who authorities said died in a skydiving accident over the weekend in Chester County.

The Chester County coroner identified the man as 73-year-old Carl Henry Smith.

Deputies and emergency responders were called to the scene around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Officers said the man was skydiving at Skydive Carolina. He landed at James F Wherry Road and Darby Road in Chester County.

According to the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, staff on the ground saw Smith jump and his main chute deploy. Immediately following that, they said the man appeared to be “hanging limp in the harness with his arms to his sides making no effort to guide, steer or brake his chute,” a report from the CCSO stated.

Officials with Skydive Carolina said Smith had more than 17,000 skydives.

Skydive Carolina owner Danny Smith said the victim was pronounced dead following what would be considered an “uneventful skydive.”

This is at least the third skydiving accident at Skydive Carolina within the past 18 months.

In June 2020, a Florida man, 20-year-old Justin William Swaggerty, was killed in a skydiving crash.

Two months later, a skydiver was injured at Skydive Carolina after landing in a tree.

In the last 10 years, there have been at least seven deaths at this facility.

Two of them happened in the last 18 months. Around this time last year, a person got seriously injured after landing in a tree.

”Fatalities are not a fun thing to talk about,” says U.S. Parachute Association Executive Director Albert Berchtold. “Every one is tragic.”

His agency tracks skydiving deaths. Berchtold says in the last 10 years the sport has seen a lot less deaths going from .7 of them per 100,000 jumps in 2010 to .39 in 2020. Go even further back, Berchtold says it is even worse. The USPA, then called the Parachute Club of America, has records back until 1961. At that time, there were 14 fatalities recorded.

”Our goal is to lower that number to 0 or as close to 0 as possible,” he says.

Despite having seven deaths in the last 10 years the USPA says the facility will probably not go under investigation. The agency does not look at individual facilities, like Skydive Carolina, to track each death the facility has. Instead, he says they have a bigger goal.

”Trying to see if a certain operation is safe or not is kind of a backward way of looking at things. Because each of those accidents or incidents that occurred is an individual situation,” he says.

He says instead focusing their energy on learning as much as they can from each death so for the next jump. On the USPA website it says they spend each January “Examining each fatality from the previous year and comparing that information to the same categories in the previous five-year and 10-year periods helps the USPA Board of Directors and staff identify trends. This in turn allows the Safety & Training Committee to make informed decisions on any changes needed to policies, rules or recommendations, and it informs the staff so they can educate the membership on problem areas.”

Berchtold says the trends are heading in the right direction. The more work that can be done to learn what happened in each of the deaths means more ways to help keep people skydiving safe.

”We learn from those and help make sure if there are worrying mistakes that have happened that we learn from they so they don’t happen again to someone else,” he says.

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