PERRIS, Calif. – An experienced Canadian skydiver died at a Southern California drop zone after landing hard while attempting a high-speed maneuver known as “swooping,” authorities said Wednesday.
Michael Ungar, 32, of Aylmer, Ontario, died Tuesday at Perris Valley Skydiving, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It was the sixth death at the parachuting facility in the last 15 months.
Witnesses said Unger’s parachute was open as he made the difficult maneuver and landed in a shallow pond.
Swooping involves a high-speed dive to skim over the ground before landing. Parachutists are often traveling 40 mph vertically and up to 60 mph horizontally just before touching down on the ground.
“It’s risky because you are moving so fast,” said Jim Crouch, the safety director for the Fredericksburg, Va.-based United States Parachuting Association. “A lot of jumpers choose to land this way because it’s exciting. But it’s very unforgiving.”
Accidents occur when parachutists start the maneuver too low and the parachute doesn’t have the ability to recover, or fill with air, and float the skydiver to the ground, Crouch said.
There have now been four sport parachuting swooping deaths nationwide this year, Crouch said.
“Jumpers are getting safer with this type of skydiving, (but) you can never completely take the risk out of it,” Crouch said.