Three die as chutes tan­gle up

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - GRACE MA­SON CHRIS HONNERY

A MIS­SION Beach mum given a birth­day sky­dive was one of three peo­ple killed in a freak ac­ci­dent yes­ter­day af­ter her parachute be­came tan­gled.

Kerri Pike, 54, the wife of for­mer Cas­sowary Coast coun­cil­lor Alis­ter Pike, was tan­dem sky­div­ing with h a highly ex­pe­ri­enced in­stru­cruc­tor from Sky­dive Mis­sion sion Beach when the col­li­sion sion oc­curred about 3pm. Thehe sky­dive was a birth­day y present from her hus- band and chil­dren.

Ms Pike’s body was found in a tree on a banana farm at 3.30pm, , along with the in­struc­tor. r.

An­other highly ex­perieri­enced in­struc­tor – who was div­ing solo and had co­mom­pleted thou­sands of jumps mps in the past – was also found dead at a house nearby.

The in­ci­dent, be­lieved to be one of the state’s worst, has left the lo­cal com­mu­nity in shock, with wit­nesses telling of the hor­ror of watch­ing the fall.

Sky­div­ing is pop­u­lar for back­pack­ers as well as lo­cals at Mis­sion Beach.

Sky­dive Mis­sion Beach ad­ver­tises the high­est tan­dem jump in Aus­tralia at 15,000ft or 4572m.

“You could see one chute was tan­gled and it wasn’t open­ing,” a man, who did not wish to be named, said.

“I was just watch­ing him in freefall un­til he went be­hind the trees and that was the last I saw.”

The man said it ap­peared the sky­diver did not ac­ti­vate a backup parachute af­ter the first failed.

The three sky­divers are be­lieved to have fallen in a small clus­ter of trees be­hind Ken Barnes’s prop­erty.

“It’s all hap­pened on my prop­erty or partly on my prop­erty,” he said. “I was in hav­ing a shower … then I just heard the sirens.

“All of a sud­den, there’s a dozen or 20 po­lice here.

“I don’t know how they landed, all I know is we’ve got a cou­ple of bod­ies at the back of our house, un­der the trees in body bags. The po­lice are all around.”

Staff at Eco Vil­lage Mis­sion Beach said sky­divers typ­i­cally landed on a stretch of beach fur­ther south.

Mr Barnes said his prop­erty was a con­sid­er­able dis­tance from this site.

“The ac­ci­dent, the crash must have hap­pened up in the air,” he said.

Am­bu­lance spokesman Neil No­ble said the in­juries were “so se­vere” the sky­divers were pro­nounced dead at the scene.

A wo­man who sky­dived at Mis­sion Beach last week­end said she was sick to her stom­ach to think she and her part­ner could have died.

“This news has left us shaken, in tears and sick to our stom­achs,” she said.

“We are so, so lucky and are thank­ing our lucky stars that we are safe.”

A spokesman for Sky­dive Aus­tralia said the firm ex­tended its “deep­est sym­pa­thies and heart­felt con­do­lences” to those in­volved as well as their fam­i­lies and the sky­div­ing com­mu­nity.

“One … had com­pleted thou­sands of jumps, was com­plet­ing a solo jump,” he said. “The other two were jump­ing as a tan­dem pair.”

Sky­div­ing has been sus­pended while au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gate the tragedy.

TRAGEDY: Other clients from Sky­dive Mis­sion Beach land safely on the beach yes­ter­day ( left). ABOVE: Kerri Pike with hus­band Alis­ter.

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