Supervisor wants reform after skydiving death

August 26, 2010 4:58:50 PM PDT
A Contra Costa County supervisor is calling for reforms to the skydiving industry after a Martinez resident took a fatal dive over the weekend from the county's Byron Airport.

Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho is urging the industry along with the U.S. Parachute Association and the Federal Aviation Administration to institute regulations for confirming a safe landing for every individual who parachutes from a plane.

"I was shocked and outraged to learn that someone could take a skydiving jump" without procedures in place to account for them on the ground afterward, Piepho said in a statement.

Piepho's district encompasses Byron Airport, where 54-year-old Martinez resident Robert Whitsitt died in a skydiving accident Sunday.

Whitsitt -- an experienced, licensed skydiver who frequented the airport on weekends -- was reported missing by family Monday morning after he did not return home.

On Sunday, he boarded a plane with a private skydiving company and jumped out at 13,000 feet. For reasons unknown, his parachute and his back-up parachute did not deploy. Whitsitt owned and packed his own equipment.

Currently, skydiving companies are not required to supervise private jumpers such as Whitsitt, who was not required to check in with anyone after the jump.

"Absent the industry taking quick and bold action, the state legislature should consider legislation to address the need for this common sense yet unregulated safety measure," Piepho said.


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