Victoria man dies in skydiving accident in Nanoose Bay

A 34-year-old Victoria man died in a skydiving accident Sunday night in Nanoose Bay.

The experienced parachutist, identified by a friend as James (Jimmy) Smith, hit the ground while performing an advanced high-speed manoeuvre known as “swooping.”

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Friend Mickey McLean said the death is a sad reminder of how dangerous the sport is. “But we, as skydivers, accept the risk.”

McLean said Smith has a wife and young daughter, and was a talented carpenter who loved riding his motorcycle. Smith started skydiving about 10 years ago in Vernon, he said.

Oceanside RCMP were called just before 7 p.m. and arrived to find the victim deceased, said RCMP Cpl. Chris Manseau.

Gord Gauvin, owner of Nanoose-based Skydive Vancouver Island, said the Island’s small skydiving community is grieving the loss of one of its own.

He said the experienced parachutist, with more than 1,000 skydives under his belt, was a coach and instructor in the sport and experienced with the “swooping” manoeuvre.

Gauvin said the force of the landing was “catastrophic.”

He told the Times Colonist that a number of people had come together Sunday, including customers and sport jumpers, for a typical weekend gathering at the Arbutus Meadows Event Centre.

He said skydivers are “a very tight, tight-knit group” and their friend “was a big part of that.”

Police co-operated with WorkSafe B.C., the Transportation Safety Board and the B.C. Coroners Service on the case, Manseau said.

The Canadian Sport Parachuting Association has also been notified.

Gauvin said the parachute association has a safety-management system that will be used to evaluate what happened.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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