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2 skydivers killed after colliding mid-air

April 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An investigation is under way to determine why two skydivers collided in mid-air and fell hundreds of feet to their deaths.

Shock and grief in the skydiving community as a freak accident claimed the lives of two experienced skydiving instructors Thursday.

Friends of the two men are still in shock after Thursday's deadly skydiving accident. The midair collision happened above Perris and plunged the veteran skydivers to their deaths. One of the victims was an instructor for more than 20 years.

It was unclear what exactly went wrong Thursday. At the Perris Valley Airport, many of the regular skydivers there were still in shock over what happened.

One of them, 42-year-old Patrick McGowan of Menifee, was an instructor and a coach at the airport. He was a veteran skydiver with more than 17,000 jumps to his credit.

Perris Valley Skydiving General Manager Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld got the phone call about what happened late Thursday afternoon.

"Such a close friend and such a valuable person in our whole community and our skydiving family, but also someone who has as much experience and is as safety-conscious as he is," said Brodsky-Chenfeld.

It was just before 4 p.m. when it happened. Rescue crews rushed to the scene, but it was too late.

Witnesses say McGowan's parachute somehow got tangled up with that of another instructor, 42-year-old Christopher Stasky of San Diego.

Both men went into freefall about 300 to 400 feet above the ground and were killed on impact.

"I would say he died doing what he loved. First and foremost he was a family man and a husband, and I know that's probably those last moments, he was thinking of his family," said Chris O'Brien, a friend of McGowan's. "We get through it, we keep going, and the only thing I can do this morning is just get up and go to work, make another jump and live life."

The Riverside County Sheriff's Dept., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were investigating the incident.

A memorial fund was being set up by Perris Valley Skydiving.