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"Hard landing" kills skydiver at Florida airport for the second time in less than 2 years

A skydiver has died in an apparent parachuting accident Monday at a recreational airport in central Florida, police said, marking at least the second skydiving fatality at the airfield in less than two years.

The man "suffered a hard landing" before being pronounced dead at DeLand Municipal Airport, the DeLand Police Department said in a statement. Officers responded to the scene around 2:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon and are conducting an investigation into what caused the accident. Police said they would not identify the skydiver until his next of kin was notified.

This was not the first fatal skydive incident at DeLand Municipal Airport, which is owned by the city of DeLand and available for public use. Another skydiver was killed during a botched landing at the same airport in October 2022, falling to his death in an apparent accident caused by a malfunctioning parachute, DeLand police said at the time. 

DeLand Municipal Airport Deland Municipal Airport / City of DeLand

Similar incidents have happened elsewhere in Florida, too. 

Last October, a 69-year-old man outfitted in parachuting gear was found dead on the lawn of a home in Titusville, which is along the coast about 40 miles east of Orlando. The home was near an airpark and skydiving center. Footage taken from a neighbor's surveillance camera showed the skydiver descending down toward the property in the reflection of a parked SUV's rear windshield, before making a hard landing on the ground. 

Although skydiving experts acknowledge that the sport carries with it a certain level of risk, they also say most skydiving accidents are caused by human error rather than equipment failure. 

"Many of the accidents occur because the jumper—oftentimes an experienced skydiver who is pushing the limits— makes an error in judgment while landing a perfectly functioning parachute," the United States Parachute Association wrote in a section of its website covering safety. The association likened skydiving incidents to vehicular crashes in this sense, noting that "automobile accidents are not usually the result of equipment failure, but rather operator mistakes."

There were 10 deadly skydiving incidents in 2023, among more than 3.6 million jumps, according to the USPA. That was a record low, the association said.

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