Two men die in tandem skydiving accident near Lodi
The Federal Aviation Administration will not take action against the Parachute Center for the August 2016 deaths of two young men near Lodi, though it found “discrepancies in the records of the instructor who died during the jump,” the agency announced Monday.
The announcement concludes the agency’s year-long probe into the tandem sky dive that killed instructor Yong Kwon, 25, of South Korea and Tyler Nicholas Turner, 18, of Los Banos.
A certifying organization, the United States Parachute Association, determined days after the crash that Kwon was not certified, in violation of federal regulations.
However, under federal regulations, the FAA could not take action against the Parachute Center for using an non-certified instructor, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The reason: Kwon had paperwork indicating he received the training he needed for certification, Gregor said. The paperwork was signed by an instructor who was not in the United States at the time the document was signed, he added.
Under the regulations, Kwon could be cited, or the person responsible for the falsified paperwork, but not the Parachute Center, Gregor said.
Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, said the agency’s failure to take action in the “egregious case” shows why she introduced a bill that would require operators to follow federal parachuting regulations.
“I introduced AB 295 – Tyler’s Law – to make it very clear that parachute centers are legally responsible for ensuring the instructors at their facilities are properly certified,” she said in a written statement. “When it comes to the safety of their customers, no facility should be able to function with impunity.”
The bill is pending in the Senate, following its approval by the Assembly in May.
Gregor has said the FAA does not comment on pending legislation.
The United States Parachute Association has revoked the memberships and instructional ratings of several people associated with the fatal crash, the FAA says.
After the accident, 140 tandem instructors worldwide – who had received training at the Parachute Center – were required to retrain, according to the FAA. The association revoked the tandem instructor ratings of 40 people who did not take the training.
A man answering the phone Monday at the Parachute Center refused to identify himself and hung up in response to a request for comment.
While there is no official count of fatalities, a review of news stories shows that at least 18 people have died flying out of the center since 1981.
In two separate cases several years ago, the FAA proposed fines of just under $1 million for alleged maintenance violations by Parachute Center owner Bill Dause. In one case, the FAA alleged that pilots at the center flew a plane more than 2,000 flights over 19 months with critical equipment in need of replacement.
Earlier this year, Dause said the FAA dropped the fines. “They realized it wasn’t an issue,” he said.
Gregor said Dause is wrong. Dause refused to settle the cases, so they were referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution, he said. The office has declined to comment on the referral.
The fines came up in May when the FAA announced it was investigating an April 2016 airplane crash at the center. The plane carrying 18 people landed upside down in an Acampo vineyard. No passengers were injured. The pilot indicated a mechanical failure, according to FAA records.