Officials are still searching for answers after the deaths of two experienced sky divers Tuesday afternoon.
"We don't know (the cause)," said Lt. Craig Turner of the Utah County Sheriff's office. "That will be under investigation for some time. But we know they had duplicate safety systems, and according to their experience, the accident shouldn't have happened."Killed were:
Ronald E. Green, 54, Toltec, Ariz.
Melanie M. Colby, 30, Alberta, Canada
Green and Colby were strapped into a tandem harness with a single large parachute when they jumped from 9,000 feet. Inexplicably, the chute failed to open properly, and the sky divers were killed on impact.
A passing motorist saw the jumpers fall and drove to Cedar Pass Ranch, about a mile east of where the sky divers landed, to call 911. Police and paramedics arrived on the scene minutes later and declared the pair dead.
The circumstances surrounding the accident have baffled law enforcement officers and officials at Cedar Valley's SkyDive U, under whose auspices the fatal jump was conducted. Green was a certified tandem jump master, and Colby was a certified jump master in the process of earning her tandem certification.
"You're talking about two of the most highly qualified sky divers in the business," Turner said.
Also, the tandem parachute was equipped with an automatic device that should have opened the chute 2,000 feet above the ground. But officials, who are still investigating the accident, say they may never know what went wrong once the pair left the aircraft.
Everything appeared normal when SkyDive U pilot Brent Davis guided the single-engine Cessna 182 down the runway at Cedar Valley Airport just before 3 p.m. Tuesday. Inside the aircraft with Green and Colby was a single jumper, whose dive went off without a hitch.
"When (Green and Colby) exited the plane, everything appeared to be in order," Turner said. "It was a very clean exit - there was no indication they hit anything on the way out."
But for Green and Colby, it was to be their last jump. The pair had already made several jumps during the day, including at least one successful dive using the same tandem rig employed in the fatal jump.
A SkyDive U employee saw the pair repack the tandem chute themselves after a clean jump earlier in the day. It is unknown whether an error in packing the chute could have led to its malfunction. Police are even unsure if the chute opened partially before the sky divers hit the ground just south of U-73.
The bodies were found about a half-mile north of SkyDive U and a quarter-mile south of West Canyon Road's intersection with U-73. For investigators from the sheriff's office and the Federal Aviation Administration, who were called in because the jump was tandem, the search for answers could go on for a long time.
"We want to determine what led to the two deaths as best we can," Turner said. "We go through the process of elimination. But we may never know the cause."