Skydiver Plumets to His Death, Sparking Debate

A tragic skydiving accident in Colorado on Saturday resulted in the death of a man after both his primary and reserve parachutes failed to open. The victim, identified as 36-year-old Gregory Coates, was skydiving near Vance Brand Airport in Longmont, approximately 40 miles north of Denver, when the incident occurred around 3:30 p.m., as reported by the Boulder County Coroner’s Office.

Coates, a resident of a mountain community near the Denver Metro area, was participating in a jump with the Mile-Hi Skydiving Center, based at the airport. He was wearing a wingsuit, a specialized jumpsuit with webbed sleeves and membranes between the arms, body, and legs, designed to allow the wearer to glide through the air.

Despite the deployment of both his primary and reserve parachutes, neither opened, leading to his fatal fall. Details regarding Coates’ skydiving experience and the type of aircraft he used for the jump remain undisclosed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was informed about the incident, but did not attend the scene. According to a spokesperson, the FAA’s role in such cases is to investigate the packing of the main and reserve parachutes and the flight rules for the pilot and aircraft, but not to determine the cause of skydiving incidents.

Mile-Hi Skydiving Center, the company with which Coates was jumping, has yet to comment on the incident. This is not the first fatal incident linked to the company. In 2018, a 23-year-old man died while jumping with the company, and concerns about the company’s safety record have been raised in the past. In 2008, a skydiving instructor and his student died during a tandem jump over the airport. In 2021, a 26-year-old Boulder man was killed in a solo jump with the company, marking the fifth fatality connected to Mile-Hi Skydiving since 2018.

According to the FAA, there are typically 30 to 40 fatalities among skydivers each year, a rate they describe as “extraordinarily high.” The United States Parachute Association, a private sports organization, reports that about 4 million skydives were made in the U.S. last year, with more than 500,000 being first-time jumps.