ELOY, Ariz. (AP) – An attempt to set a world skydiving record by having more than 220 people freefall from an airplane in formation turned tragic Thursday when one of the jumpers died during the daring effort.
Skydive Arizona blamed the accident on a malfunctioning parachute that was released too low to the ground to allow a reserve parachute to fully open. The skydiver was declared dead at the scene.
“It had nothing to do with the size of the group or the aircraft,” World Team spokeswoman Gulcin Gilbert said. “It was a malfunction of the parachute.”
The accident occurred during an attempt to break a world record for what is called a “formation jump.”
The group of 222 people from 28 countries was to free-fall from about 18,000 feet, come together in a formation before separating and doing another formation, then pull their parachutes.
The skydivers jumped at such a high elevation that they needed oxygen masks in the airplane, and they hurtled through the air at speeds of more than 100 mph.
The group did not complete the formation and therefore did not set the record Thursday. World Team organized the event at Skydive Arizona, one of the nation’s top skydiving locations.
Skydivers cried and hugged each other and prayed after they learned of the death.
Skydive Arizona in Eloy has been the site of other skydiving deaths in recent months.
Two skydivers – from Germany and the United Kingdom – died in November as their parachutes collapsed and they fell to their deaths during an attempt to set a jump record.
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