Skydivers return to Arizona site where 2 died

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 4, 2013 at 6:33 pm •  Published: December 4, 2013
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ELOY, Ariz. (AP) — Skydivers from around the world returned to the air Wednesday at a popular Arizona skydiving location that was the site of a deadly mishap involving two parachutists a day earlier.

Two skydivers were killed Tuesday after they collided during a jump, collapsing their parachutes and sending them plummeting to the ground. The men — one from the United Kingdom and another from Germany — were among about 200 people trying to set world records for group jumps.

Participants met Wednesday and decided getting back in the air was the best way to pay tribute to their friends, many of whom know each other from other skydiving events around the world.

"Of course it makes me a little nervous, but this kind of thing happens. That's the price of skydiving," said Evgenii Dolgopolov, of Moscow, Russia, who witnessed the accident. He planned to jump again Wednesday.

"This kind of thing happens sometimes, but it's very rare," he added.

Witnesses told investigators that both skydivers had open canopies when they ran into each other 200 feet above the ground. The two then fell to the desert floor with a loud thump that could be heard from several hundred yards away. The accident occurred at about 4:50 p.m., said Sgt. Brian Jerome, an Eloy police spokesman.

A third skydiver was injured in an unrelated accident.

Eloy police identified the victims Wednesday as Keiron O'Rourke, 40, of the United Kingdom, who had logged 849 previous jumps; and Bernd Schmehl, 51, of Germany, who also was highly experienced, with 1,707 jumps.

The skydivers are in Arizona for Square One World Sequential Series 2013, a gathering aimed at setting numerous world records for group skydiving with participants from around the world. Registrants paid $2,050 to sign up for the event, sponsored by skydiving equipment dealer Square One. It includes 28 jumps over about a week.

The registration website says organizers were looking to assemble a team of the most talented skydivers and would arrange the exact size of each formation jump based on the number of highly skilled skydivers who applied to participate.

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