Skydiver Killed Near Lodi After Crashing Into Big Rig

Skydiver Killed Near Lodi After Crashing Into Big Rig

A fatal skydiving accident occurred along State Route 99 in an area near Lodi on September 26. The female skydiver, 28, crashed into a semi-trailer and landed on the shoulder of the southbound lane. The accident occurred on S.R. 99 heading south near Jahant Road in San Joaquin County near Peltier Road. According to authorities, the woman hit the trailer upon her descent and then landed on the road’s shoulder. The area was near the Lodi Parachute Center, and witnesses said the winds were gusting up to 17 mph when the accident occurred. 

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) was on the scene and an officer, Reuben Jones, said the blunt-force trauma of both impacts was responsible for the woman’s death. The CHP warned area drivers to take an alternate route since lane two was blocked. It was expected that it would remain impassable for an extended period of time as the investigation proceeded and the area was cleared. Witnesses said that seven parachutists were seen descending at around 2:00 in the afternoon before the accident happened. The San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office has identified the deceased skydiver as 28-year-old Maria Vallejo of Colombia. In addition to an investigation by the CHP, the FAA will be on hand to conduct their inquiry into what happened.

Lodi Parachute Center Plagued With Problems

This is not the first time a fatality occurred at the Lodi Parachute Center. The woman’s death is one of several fatalities that have occurred. One woman died in October 2018 after a jump when her parachute did not open. The woman had her own equipment. Prior to this, a 42-year-old man died in 2017 when his chute did not open. In addition, three other fatalities occurred in 2016, including an instructor who was not correctly licensed and a student who were making a tandem jump and one where a malfunctioning parachute was to blame. The FBI raided the facility in 2018, confiscating various receipts, records, and videos. 

Wrongful Death After a Parachute Jump

Parachutists must be 18 years of age in this country to skydive. Obtaining a skydiving license means you must complete training that will certify that you are competent and capable of making a jump on your own. There are different levels of licensure with each level being more advanced than the one before it. There are four types of skydiving licenses identified as A through D. The D level is the most advanced, and the skydiver must have completed 500 jumps with two occurring at night. However, even advanced skydivers can be injured or die for a variety of reasons. For instance, the parachute must be packed precisely before the jump. Sometimes, the parachute has mechanical problems that causes an accident. After a death from parachuting occurs, a rigorous search should be undertaken to find out why it happened. 

Facing a Wrongful Death 

The family of a skydiver who was killed in a jump may have many questions about why it happened, especially if the parachutist has made other jumps successfully. For the family, questions about why it happened compounds the grief they already feel. By retaining an injury lawyer, they will make certain that no stone is unturned to get this information. This is particularly true if previous accidents occurred in the same area. If negligence is unearthed, either at the skydiving school or by the instructor, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. While recovering the cost of funeral and burial costs as well as the support the decedent may have provided will not alleviate the overwhelming grief the family feels, it will assist in moving forward after they were robbed unexpectedly of a loved one. 

How Does a Family Cope With the Death of a Loved One?

Each family copes with the death of a loved one differently. There is no right or wrong way. However, there are things the family can do to help:

  • Many times, grieving family members fail to take care of themselves. It is important to eat and sleep properly. This will help each family member as they pass through this difficult period. Checking on one another helps too.
  • Talking about the loved one and the accident is helpful for some grieving families. Keeping things bottled up can be a prelude to depression in the future.
  • Letting all family members show their vulnerability is a good way to let people grieve. Trying to be strong for everyone else is not always helpful. 
  • Remembering the good times you’ve shared with the deceased is healing. Not overlooking the good times can help you remember how lucky you were to know your loved one. 

Why Do Skydiving Accidents Occur?

Nineteen people died in 2018 from skydiving accidents in the United States. The United States Parachuting Association reports that annually about 350,000 parachutists make 3 million jumps. The risk of being in a fatal accident is small with one death occurring out of 100,000 jumps. Taken another way, if you make only one jump each year, your chances of dying are roughly one in 100,000. Compare that with the risk of driving. A driver who operates a motor vehicle 10,000 miles per year has a one in 6,000 chance of being killed. However, the more jumps a skydiver makes each year, the chance of being involved in a fatal accident increases. The most common causes of a skydiving accident are:

  • Injuries when landing
  • Malfunctioning parachute when it opens (occurs in one out of 1,000 openings)
  • Free-fall injuries
  • Advanced maneuvers such as turning the parachute to increase speed

How an Attorney Can Help

In the midst of grief, you might think about what caused your loved one’s death and whether it was due to negligence. That is where your attorney can help. At our firm, we send our investigators to the scene of the accident to obtain evidence of negligence. We do this by interviewing witnesses to the accident, obtaining video footage of the accident if possible and reviewing police reports for errors. If needed, we use expert opinion by people who are trained in accident reconstruction. We also check manufacturer records to see if the parachute was faulty or there were complaints about the product or company previously. Once the data is amassed, we release it to our lawyers who use it to build a strong case against the at-fault party. 

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento personal injury lawyer. If your loved one died while skydiving, you will want some answers about why and how it happened. Reach out to me at (916) 921-6400 for free and friendly advice. You can also contact me online or by calling (800) 404-5400.

I’ve helped residents of Northern California in all types of car accidents, wrongful deaths, and traumatic injuries for over 37 years. 

I am proud to be a member of the following organizations:

Learn more about my practice on the following pages:

Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/photos/parachutist-parachute-soldiers-2183326/

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