Australian skydivers died in mid-air collision, coroner finds

Skydiver in the air Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The three skydivers, not pictured, collided with each other above Mission Beach in Far North Queensland

Three Australian skydivers killed in an accident in 2017 died instantly in a mid-air collision, a coroner has found.

Toby Turner’s parachute opened early during a dive in Far North Queensland, causing him to collide with tandem pair Kerri Pike and Peter Dawson.

Coroner Nerida Wilson said Mr Turner made an “error of judgement” by using a parachute container that was too large.

Ms Wilson told an inquest in Cairns that skydivers should be banned from checking their own equipment.

Her report found that blood on the parachutes and corresponding damage meant it was most likely all three had suffered non-survivable injuries when they collided at extremely high speed mid-air.

An expert from the Australian Parachuting Federation testified that the “closing speed” between the open parachute and the pair in freefall would have been about 200km/h (125mph). All suffered significant head and neck injuries, an autopsy found.

The accident happened over Mission Beach on 13 October 2017. Mr Turner, who was an experienced professional skydiver, had joined the dive at the last minute because there was an empty seat on the plane.

As he was a professional, he was allowed to pack his own parachute and check his own equipment, Ms Wilson said in her findings.

He jumped just before Mrs Pike, who had been given the dive as a birthday present from her husband and was strapped into a tandem harness with her instructor Mr Dawson.

When Mr Turner’s parachute deployed early, it forced him into the path of Mrs Pike and Mr Dawson who were above him at the time.

Their bodies were later discovered on a residential road, about 1.5km (1 mile) from the drop zone where they had been expected to land.

In her recommendations, Ms Wilson urged skydiving groups in Australia to introduce stricter equipment checks and to stop allowing professional divers to check their own equipment.

“This was a tragic accident, which resulted in the deaths of three much-loved community members from the Mission Beach area,” she said.

“It is hoped that the coronial process and the recommendations I have made will assist in avoiding such a tragic accident from occurring again.”


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