Saturday, October 25, 2014

FAA says investigation ongoing

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 8/25/2014

The Federal Aviation Administration’s investigation into a skydiving mishap that claimed the life of a 54-year-old Wichita man Aug. 9 east of Ottawa remains open, the agency recently confirmed in an email. An FAA spokesperson said the agency could not comment on the investigation at this time, citing its ongoing nature.

While the agency could not discuss this specific case, the FAA investigates areas under its regulatory responsibility, which include rules of flight for the aircraft and the packing of the chute and the reserve chute, according to the email from its public affairs office in Des Plaines, Illinois.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s investigation into a skydiving mishap that claimed the life of a 54-year-old Wichita man Aug. 9 east of Ottawa remains open, the agency recently confirmed in an email. An FAA spokesperson said the agency could not comment on the investigation at this time, citing its ongoing nature.

While the agency could not discuss this specific case, the FAA investigates areas under its regulatory responsibility, which include rules of flight for the aircraft and the packing of the chute and the reserve chute, according to the email from its public affairs office in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Brad Giffin, an experienced skydiver who had logged more than 500 jumps, was killed when he failed to deploy his main chute and opened his reserve shoot to close to the ground, people familiar with Giffin’s jump said. Giffin was among a group of skydiving enthusiasts who had turned out for the grand opening weekend celebration of Skydive Lawrence, also known as Kansas Drop Zone, at 3196 K-68 just east of Ottawa. The flight carrying Giffin originated that day from the Ottawa Airport, 2178 Montana Road.

Monte LaMar, the pilot of the Cessna Skylane 182 carrying Giffin and another skydiver on that jump, said he did not notice anything unusual.

“I watched Brad leave [the plane] and he was in good shape,” LaMar, with Skydive Gypsy Moths, which is headquartered near Wichita in Benton, Kansas, said in a previous interview.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a missing skydiver about 7:20 p.m. Aug. 9 and undertook a search of the area along with first responders from the Lincoln-Ottawa-Harrison Fire Department and participants in the Skydive Lawrence event.

Flying low to the ground in his Cessna, LaMar spotted Giffin a short time later in a field about 1 1/2 miles east of the drop zone. The field was located east of Walmart Logistics distribution center on the outskirts of Ottawa. Giffin was pronounced dead at the scene, Rick Geist, Franklin County undersheriff, said.

From the position of the skydiver’s equipment on the ground and after an inspection of its condition, LaMar said he could not come up with an explanation for what happened.

“There have been a lot of inaccurate reports in the media saying that [Giffin’s] parachute didn’t open, and that’s not the case,” LaMar, a veteran skydiver with more than 7,000 jumps to his credit, said in an interview the day after the mishap. “He never deployed his main canopy. There was nothing wrong with the gear. It was in good shape. He did try to deploy his reserve canopy, but he was too low to the ground — I would estimate under 300 feet, judging by where [the equipment] was. Normally, [the reserve parachute] would be deployed about 1,000 feet. It just doesn’t make sense.”

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