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Skydive site owner: Men didn't deploy chutes

The entrance to Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Fla.,

The entrance to Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Fla., where two skydivers from Iceland who were on an outing organized by the group died. (March 24, 2013) Credit: Google

MIAMI - Two Icelandic sky divers who died during weekend jumps at a popular southwest Florida camp did not deploy their main parachutes, the co-owner of the facility said yesterday.

Deputies found the bodies of the instructor and a student Saturday after the two didn't return from a jump with a group, setting off an hours-long air and ground search around the Zephyrhills facility, about 30 miles northeast of Tampa.

Pasco County sheriff's authorities identified the victims as 41-year-old instructor Orvar Arnarson and 25-year-old student Andrimar Pordarson of Iceland. The men jumped separately, not in tandem.

The fact that they didn't deploy their main parachutes could mean they lost altitude awareness and didn't know where they were in the dive, which is unusual, said T.K. Hayes, Skydive City co-owner.

They had backup automatic activation devices, which deploy if the main parachutes are not deployed in time.

"Those devices activated on both of them . . . but the reserves did not have time to deploy fully," Hayes said. "They were out of the containers but not inflated in time before they impacted." Hayes was at the scene with officials Saturday.

"Like most accidents, most of the time it's human error," he said. "I doubt there's an equipment problem here, to be honest." But he stressed that authorities are still investigating.

The two men had completed two other jumps Saturday morning with 20 other people. Their disappearance after a third jump tipped off a search, Pasco County sheriff's spokeswoman Melanie Snow said.

The bodies were discovered by spotters from the air early Saturday evening in woods south of the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, Snow said.

The victims were part of a group of about 12 who travel from Iceland to Florida every year to jump, Hayes said. Hundreds of sky divers jump each day at the site this time of year.

Last year, Dr. T. Elaine McLaughlin died on a jump at Skydive City after her chute failed to open properly. Across the U.S. last year, 19 sky divers died out of 3.1 million jumps, the United States Parachute Association said.

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