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1 dead, 1 injured in tandem skydiving jump in Arizona; cause under investigation


MARICOPA, Arizona — A skydiving student died and an instructor was injured in a tandem jump in Arizona, authorities said Saturday.

Pinal County Sheriff's spokesman Mark Clark says a malfunction or failure occurred, leading to a hard-impact landing during the jump in Maricopa. Firefighters were called around 10:30 a.m. and pronounced the 26-year-old female student dead. The 40-year-old male instructor was hospitalized with two broken legs and was expected to survive.

The instructor works at Skydive Phoenix, which operates a drop zone for skydivers in Maricopa about 34 miles south of Phoenix. They were taking part in a tandem jump in which two people, typically a certified skydiver or instructor and a student, are joined by a harness. The instructor is tied behind the student. According to Skydive Phoenix's website, the harness is attached to a student at four points — two at the shoulders and two at the waist. To participate in a tandem jump, a person must be at least 18 years old and weigh no more than 230 pounds.

In a post on their Facebook page, Skydive Phoenix said the student was conducting her second jump for their Accelerated Skydiving Program and a main parachute did not deploy. A reserve parachute was flying properly but encountered turbulence during the landing. Company officials said turbulence or possibly a dust devil turned the parachute into the ground at the last second.

The student's identity will not be released until next of kin has been notified, Clark said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting its own investigation. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the FAA investigates incidents involving civilian jumps to see if a parachute was properly used.

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