British Tourist, 55, Dies in Arizona Skydiving Crash Near the Grand Canyon
The man's parachute instructor suffered an apparent broken leg.
A British tourist was killed in a tandem skydiving jump near the Grand Canyon on Sunday in an accident that left his instructor with a broken leg.
Deputies with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene near Grand Canyon National Park Airport just before 10 a.m. local time and found two injured men: Christopher Swales, 55, and his instructor from the Paragon Skydiver company, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
Swales, from the United Kingdom, was unconscious when deputies arrived, and though paramedics performed CPR, he was later pronounced dead by doctors from Flagstaff Medical Center.
The man with whom he jumped appeared to have suffered a broken leg and was taken to Flagstaff Medical Center.
The sheriff’s office said Swales had bought a skydiving package from Paragon that included the tandem jump, and that the jump had been “going as planned until they encountered difficulties when approaching the landing area.”
Because of those unidentified difficulties, the men free-fell for an unknown distance, and hit the ground in a “hard landing.”
Authorities said the circumstances surrounding the crash remain unclear, and that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, as is the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor confirmed to PEOPLE.
“The FAA’s skydiving accident investigations typically look at whether the parachutes were properly packed by the appropriate people and, when it occurs during a tandem jump, whether the instructor had the required experience and credentials,” Gregor said.
According to Paragon’s website, all of its tandem rigs are equipped with reserve canopies and automatic activation devices that deploy the parachute in emergency situations.
The site claims that all of its tandem instructors are certified with the United States Parachute Association (USPA) and have completed thousands of jumps (The FAA requires instructors to have at least three years’ experience and a minimum of 500 free-fall jumps).
Paragon also says that during a tandem skydive, jumpers will reach speeds of up to 136 mph.
The company is located at the Grand Canyon National Park Airport in Tusayan, which is approximately 15 minutes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Paragon declined to comment pending investigation results when reached by PEOPLE.
The USPA reported just 13 skydiving fatalities in 2018, the lowest number in the U.S. since record-keeping began more than 60 years ago.