Parachute Deaths in Southern Arizona
Rose Cronin, David C. Winston
ABSTRACT: Introduction: Parachuting is said to be a relatively safe activity. We sought to undertake a study to assess parachute-related deaths in our jurisdiction.
Methods: A retrospective study of parachute-related deaths in Southern Arizona was conducted by searching the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner database between 2001 and 2016. This search revealed 24 deaths.
Results: The decedents ranged from 19 to 61 years of age, with a median age of 36 years. Twenty-two of the decedents were male. The racial breakdown was 22 white, one Asian, and one not recorded. The manner of death in all cases was classified as an accident. All deaths were due to multiple blunt force injuries and only one case was found to have no injuries to the head or neck. The most common circumstances were failure of chute deployment (seven), mid-air collisions (three), and becoming entangled with other parachutists (three). Six deaths occurred during military training. Four of the nonmilitary decedents were described as “experienced” parachutists and one case involved a tandem jump team with a survivor. Natural disease was found in four cases with three having moderate coronary artery atherosclerosis. Toxicology was performed in 21 of the deaths with three positive for cannabinoids, one positive for 7-aminoclonazepam, and one positive for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).
Discussion: Parachuting is a relatively safe activity, with very few deaths. Investigation of these deaths should include a complete autopsy with toxicology as well as a thorough scene investigation and evaluation of the jumper’s equipment.