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Swoop landing mishap

Repeka Nasiko
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A SKYDIVER had to be airlifted to the Suva Private Hospital last week after he was injured when he attempted a high speed "swoop landing" on a special high performance parachute.

A professional skydiver from the UK, Ben Cornick broke his leg in three different places and an arm and elbow were also broken in the horrific accident last Tuesday.

Mr Cornick was then transported to Auckland, New Zealand because of the severity of his injuries.

Employed by Skydive Fiji, the 31-year-old was doing a private solo skydive unrelated to Skydive Fiji's normal tandem skydiving operations. He had jumped from a height of 14,000 feet and free-fell down to the height of about 3000 before opening his parachute normally.

Tim Joyce, owner and senior instructor of Skydive Fiji said yesterday Ben was attempting a high speed "swoop landing approach" on a very small, high performance parachute when he was injured.

"There are international parachuting competition events involving such high speed 'swoop landings' which involve both speed and distance travelled close to the ground," said Mr Joyce.

"To build up extra speed on the landing approach, the parachutist also induces a radical, very steep 270 degree turn which gives a very high rate of descent and builds up speeds of around 100 kph before they level out and fly close to the ground or water over a course where their speed and distance is recorded.

"The parachute that Ben was using was about a quarter of the size parachute that we use for our tandems skydives. It appears in Ben's case, as he approached the ground at high speed, that he had a control problem resulting in him losing control of his parachute and crashing into the rear of a vehicle parked to the side of the landing area."

The Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji commissioned an accident investigator from the Australian Parachute Federation, Captain Graeme Hill to investigate the accident.

Captain Hill commented that "participating in or practicing for such high speed events has inherently far greater risks than the normal tandem operations that Skydive Fiji conducts".