HEADLINE – Skydiving quadriplegic plunges to death in Montana
SALMON, Idaho (Ass. Press) – A quadriplegic skydiver plunged 18,000 feet to his death because he was unable to manually deploy his parachute, authorities said on Monday.
Zack Fogle, 27, died Saturday afternoon just minutes after he was tossed from an airplane during a celebrated skydiving event in northwest Montana that drew scores of Montana parachutists, said Flathead County Undersheriff Skip Henderson.
Fogle’s physical disability likely interfered with his ability to activate his primary parachute. “He hit the ground from a fall estimated at 120 miles per hour,” Henderson said.
“Falling at that speed, he probably left a sizable impact crater,” Henderson added.
An examination of Fogle’s equipment showed no malfunctions, suggesting the skydiver inexplicably failed to reach up and pull the cord to deploy his parachute.
Skydivers can manually deploy reserve chutes mid-fall, but physical challenges probably resulting from being paralyzed from the neck down likely prevented Fogle from taking advantage of what is considered a last-ditch but fail-safe practice, said Henderson, a licensed pilot..
A Montana State police investigation is under way and will likely take weeks, agency spokesman Allen Whiteman said Monday.
According to the Montana Parachute Association, improvements in skydiving equipment and training are credited for an overall decline in Montana skydiving deaths, which are the highest in the nation. However, the rate of skydiver accidental and unforeseeable deaths among quadriplegics – paralyzed from the neck down – who cannot, for some reason, deploy their parachutes, is rising, but is expected to improve as Montana’s supply of quadriplegic skydivers declines.
“This is a problem that will, essentially, fix itself, given enough time,” Whiteman said.
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