News Column

Two Skydivers Dead

March 24, 2013

Elizabeth Behrman

March 24--ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. -- After an hours-long search by air and on the ground Saturday, Pasco deputies found the bodies of two skydivers who had been missing since they jumped out a plane late in the morning.

The two men -- an experienced skydiving instructor and a student -- landed in woods off Yonkers Road, south of Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. Their bodies were found near each other at about 7:30 p.m., authorities said.

An investigation is ongoing. It remained unclear late Saturday what happened and whether the men's parachutes opened during their jumps.

The two men had jumped separately, with a group of 20 other people, at about 10:30 a.m., officials said. The victims' names had not been released pending notification of their relatives.

T.K. Hayes, co-owner of Skydive City, the skydiving center that planned the excursion, said the men were part of a larger group of jumpers from Iceland who were vacationing in Florida.

He reported the men missing at about noon. In the 17 years he has been in the business, Hayes said, he never has known anyone to go missing for more than a couple of hours.

He did not speculate about what might have happened, but he said he plans to share his expertise about skydiving and skydiving equipment with deputies as they investigate.

"It's always a sad thing," he said. "I'm very interested to know what happened and how we can learn from it."

In 2010, Hayes told The Tampa Tribune there have been 10 or 12 deaths in Skydive City's 20-year history. A Gulfport woman, who had 15 years of skydiving experience, was killed after her equipment malfunctioned in January last year.

"Skydiving gets safer and safer every year," Hayes said, "but it's still an extreme sport."

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