Number of Skydiving Deaths Per Year
If you’ve found your way here plugging “skydiving deaths per year” in every search engine you can find, it’s likely someone you love has just broken the news that they are going to make a tandem skydive. Perhaps, you’ve been gifted a skydive for your birthday or Christmas and are wondering exactly what you’ll be getting into. Your mind is probably racing a mile a minute wondering how they (or you) could do something so dangerous! And ultimately, you keep coming back to the same question: “how likely is it to die from skydiving?”
While your concern is entirely valid—it is skydiving after all—we think you will be pleasantly surprised to learn skydiving isn’t quite as dangerous as you might imagine. And skydiving deaths are far from frequent. In fact, skydiving deaths rarely occur. We won’t ask you to believe us without seeing the facts. We will go into the skydiving fatality statistics, so you can determine for yourself if the experience of a lifetime is worth the risk.
How Likely Is It To Die From Skydiving?
The most recent data gathered by the United States Parachute Association indicates that in 2019 out of the 3.3 million skydives completed around the U.S., 15 resulted in a skydiving death. While we would like to see this number at 0, the statistics do show that—continually over time as skydiving equipment, technology, and training programs have improved—the number of skydiving fatalities has steadily declined.
Tandem skydiving statistically has better odds, with one skydiving fatality for every 500,000 tandem jumps. Mathematically speaking, this makes the odds of a tandem skydiving death 0.0002%.
What Causes Skydiving Deaths?
What the statistics don’t show are the events that led up to those skydiving deaths. Many imagine that the circumstances surrounding these skydiving deaths deals with malfunctioning equipment, but this is not the case. The majority of fatalities today involve highly experienced skydivers who have made a choice to push boundaries by flying extremely high-performance wings. These canopy pilots use advanced maneuvers and small parachutes to reach speeds of up to 70 mph across the ground. These maneuvers and the use of such small parachutes leave a small margin for error and increases the overall risk they take. The majority of the skydiving fatalities that we see today come from canopy pilot error.
How Safe Is Skydiving?
At Wisconsin Skydiving Center safety is our top priority. To ensure our customers have a fun and safe skydiving experience, we keep high standards. We hire only the best most vetted instructors in the industry; therefore, every instructor we employ has met the rigorous standards established by the United States Parachute Association. Our commitment to safety extends to our aircraft and skydiving equipment as well; every part is compliant with regulations established by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Is The Risk Worth It?
The simple fact is nothing is without risk. Take driving a car for example. According to the National Safety Council, in the U.S. alone, an estimated 38,800 people were killed and/or fatally injured in automobile accidents in 2019. Yet, no one bats an eye as they climb behind the wheel for their daily commute or weekly trip to the grocery store. This is because, deep down, we understand every action we take has some inherent risk. The goal is to take risks that are worth it.
With over 3 million skydives made each year, we think it’s safe to say that for many the risk is decidedly worth it. What makes skydiving worth the risk you wonder? Skydiving isn’t just an adrenaline rush, far from it. Sure, skydiving is thrilling, but for many, it is so much more. Skydiving affords people an opportunity to face their fear and step outside of their comfort zone. Like a butterfly shedding the chrysalis and spreading its wings for the first time, many people find skydiving to be a truly transformative event. For some, it’s just that looking out onto the world from the heights they reach really puts everything else into perspective. Only you can decide if this adventure is worth the risk.
At Wisconsin Skydiving Center, we do all that we can to provide a skydiving environment that is as safe as it is fun. If you want any more information on the safety measures we take, please feel free to contact us.
It’s at least the fifth death connected to Mile-Hi Skydiving since 2018
A 26-year-old Boulder man died Friday following a skydiving accident at Vance Brand Municipal Airport.
Sergio Lee Gonzales was severely injured just before 1 p.m. Friday, as reported by an airport employee. Gonzales was treated on scene by paramedics before being taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead due to the severity of his injuries.
An investigation into the accident is ongoing.
Vance Brand Municipal Airport Manager David Slayter said Gonzales had booked a solo jump with Mile-Hi Skydiving Center but that he couldn’t comment on the details of the accident or Gonzales’ injuries due to an ongoing Federal Aviation Administration investigation.
The lead investigator for the FAA, Nelson Wolfmeier, was unable to comment Tuesday on the injuries Gonzales sustained in the fatal accident or on the status of the investigation but said additional details would be released at a later time.
The Times-Call could not reach Mile-Hi Skydiving Center owner Frank Casares for comment on Tuesday.
This was at least the fifth skydiving fatality connected to Mile-Hi Skydiving since 2018.
Expert skydiving trainer Patrick Gire of Denver, 40, died June 17, 2019, from complications stemming from a skydiving incident at Vance Brand Municipal Airport on Sept. 21, 2018.
Simla resident Logan Polfuss, 23, died Oct. 18, 2018, when he had jumped with eight other skydivers hosted by Mile-Hi Skydiving. His body was recovered the following day. The FAA subsequently ruled the death of Polfuss, a veteran skydiver, an accident, noting that the one-piece tracking suit Polfuss used might have caused issues during the jump.
Experienced skydiver and member of “Mile-Hi’s skydiving family” Brock Barto of Breckenridge, 29, died June 29, 2019, after a Vance Brand Municipal Airport flight instructor called in the skydiving accident upon witnessing Barto hitting the ground. The unidentified flight instructor said Barto’s canopy had looked “distorted.”
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Fourth skydiving death at Longmont airport in less than a year under investigation
Mile-Hi Skydiving ID’s victim as Brock Barto, part of ‘skydiving family’
First responders investigate the scene of where a skydiver, a man in his 30s, died at Vance Brand Airport on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning a flight instructor at Longmont’s Vance Brand Airport was looking west when a skydiver who appeared to be in trouble caught his attention.
The man, who declined to have his name published, claimed to have seen the fatal skydiving accident which left one man dead. According to the flight instructor, the skydiver’s canopy looked “distorted” and his flare was straight down, which indicated to him that the skydiver could be having problems.
“When he hit the ground, I saw dust come up,” he said. “I called 911 right away. I was shocked.”
Skydiving continued Saturday at Vance Brand Municipal Airport as first responders investigated the scene where the skydiver lost his life.
Mile-Hi Skydiving released a statement late Saturday via Bryan Biesterfeld, an attorney with Robinson Waters & O’Dorisio, P.C. In the release, the deceased skydiver was identified as Brock Barto, who was called a member of Mile-Hi’s “skydiving family.” He was described as an experienced skydiver who had completed hundreds of jumps and had a passion for the sport.
“He died today in a tragic accident and our hearts and condolences go out to his friends and family,” the release stated.
The Boulder County Coroner’s Office has not independently identified the man who died.
Barto’s death is the fourth stemming from jumps at the airport in less than a year. Meanwhile, city officials said they will be working closely with the Federal Aviation and Administration to see what if any actions may be warranted.
Longmont police Sgt. John Wederquist confirmed that rescue personnel were called at 10:16 a.m., on reports of a man in his 30s who was not breathing and not conscious.
“From all accounts his ‘chute was functioning properly,” Wederquist said. “He just misjudged his swooping landing, and impacted the ground hard.”
Wederquist said that nurses, who happened to be at the airport, attempted to revive the man later identified as Barto, but were not successful in doing so. He was taken to Longmont United Hospital, and pronounced dead there at about 10:45 a.m., according to Wederquist.
The FAA has been notified of the incident, Wederquist said, but he added that federal investigators might not be involved until Monday.
The airport has been the scene of three prior fatal accidents in the past year, two in which skydivers were killed immediately, and a third in which the victim died nine months later from complications stemming from his injuries.
Simla resident Logan Polfuss, 23, was killed in a fall Oct. 18, when he had jumped with eight other skydivers hosted by Mile-Hi Skydiving. His body was not recovered until the following day.
The FAA subsequently ruled the death of Polfuss, a veteran of hundreds of jumps, an accident, writing that the one-piece tracking suit Polfuss used might have caused issues during the jump.
Timothy DeTine of Littleton, 57, died in a fall there on May 11. When the fatality came to light several days later, Mile-Hi Skydiving in Longmont did not respond to requests for comment on the incident, and it was not immediately confirmed that Mile-Hi was involved, but it is the only skydiving company that operates out of Vance Brand Municipal Airport.
It was just earlier this week that a third death stemming from skydiving at Vance Brand was made public. Patrick Gire, 40, died June 17, his family confirmed, from complications stemming from a skydiving mishap at the airport that occurred at the airport on Sept. 21, 2018.
Gire had about 6,500 jumps to his credit since taking up the pursuit more than 10 years ago, his family said. Family members said many of his jumps were as an instructor, more recently, a videographer with the Vance Brand Municipal Airport-based Mile-Hi Skydiving operation.
Mile-Hi stated that all of the recent accidents involved highly experienced divers. The skydiving operation added that as students progress to experienced divers, it follows a comprehensive training program aligned with the national standards of the United States Parachute Association and all FAA regulations. However, accidents sometimes occur, the release noted.
“This year has been a difficult year, and we have had an unusually high number of incidents,” Biesterfeld’s statement read. “However, Mile-Hi Skydiving Center is approaching nearly one million jumps made over a twenty-four year span and has one of the best safety records in skydiving nationwide.”
Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley said David Slayter, the city’s airport manager had been notified by Mile-Hi Skydiving of the fatality.
Bagley said the skydiving deaths have raised concerns.
“I don’t know what action the city should or could take at this point, given that it has been a couple of minutes (since receiving the information) but four skydiving deaths in a year seems disproportionately high,” Bagley said. “As we gather information, we will be consider what actions should we be taking and (looking) at communications with the FAA etc. in order to prevent future skydiving deaths.”
Sandra Seader, assistant city manager, echoed that the city would be working with the FAA.
“Certainly, we are saddened to hear the news,” Seader said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. This is an FAA investigation. We will be keeping in close touch with them and we will be looking forward to hearing the results of the investigation.”
Mile-Hi noted that skydiving possess risks, like a variety of outdoor sports.
Kelsey Hammon | General assignment reporter
Kelsey Hammon covers crime and breaking news in Boulder County. She is a University of Northern Colorado journalism graduate. Prior to writing for the Boulder Daily Camera and Longmont Times-Call, she worked for the Niles Daily Star in southwest Michigan. She can be reached at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com.
Charlie Brennan | Senior Reporter
Charlie Brennan is a 35-year Colorado news veteran, now covering environment, science, JonBenet Ramsey and more for the Boulder Daily Camera and Longmont Times-Call.
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