60-year-old man killed in skydiving accident in Pepperell

PEPPERELL, Mass. — On Saturday afternoon, at approximately 3:00 p.m., a skydiving incident in Pepperell left one person dead, according to police.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Pepperell Chief of Police David Scott have confirmed the death of a 60-year-old male who was an experienced skydiver.

"(He was a) very experienced jumper. he was well-liked in this community," said Stephen Hoff, a fellow skydiver.

The man worked as an independent contractor filming jumps with the skydiving company. He was filming beginner skydivers and then jumped from the plane himself.

"Very nice, very gentle, very respectful, professional, family man, yes," said David Goldstein, who works at Skydive Pepperell.

The exact cause of the accident is unknown, however, preliminary investigation suggests he experienced a parachute malfunction.

Boston 25 News reporter Jim Morelli learned the skydiver's main parachute deployed, but was released and landed in a nearby neighborhood.

"We all have a main parachute and we have a reserve parachute, and we're all trained how to deploy a reserve if something happens to the main," Goldstein said.

It wasn't made clear if the reserve parachute deployed or not.

The fatal jump happened on the last weekend of Skydive Pepperell's operational season.

The skydiving aircraft used by Skydive Pepperell is a Twin Otter which carries about two dozen skydivers. Jumpers descend from 10,000 to 13,000 feet.

Statistically, skydiving appears to be quite safe.

The U.S. Parachute Association estimates 3.2 million skydived nationally in 2016. Out of those numbers, only 21 died as a result of the jump.

Still, this is the second fatal accident at the Pepperell facility in three years.

In 2014, a Mattapan man's skydiving death was ruled as accidental.

"You're out having a good time with people and you forget that part that you're falling to the ground, towards the ground at 120 miles per hour," said Hoff. "It's important for us not to get complacent."

It is definitely a sport in which chaos and control are forced to co-exist, and having a healthy dose of fear, helps.

It is also a very personal sport in which participants tend to know each other, and mourn each other's passings.

Police do not suspect any indication of foul play.

This is an open and ongoing investigation conducted by the Middlesex's DA's office, Pepperell Police, State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration.

This week, Skydive Pepperell will close for the season. The aircraft that sometimes did up to twenty-five skydiving runs a day will head to Florida.

When the facility re-opens in the spring, skydivers are hoping they can learn something from this tragedy to make the sport even safer.


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