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Gatineau skydiving crash caused by problem with reserve chute, lack of training, report finds

A nine-month investigation into the cause of a near-fatal tandem skydiving crash in Gatineau has found that the reserve parachute deployed improperly, and that skydiving instructors don't receive enough training about how to prevent uncontrolled landings.

No fines or recommendations stemming from July 2015 crash

Instructor Carolyne Breton broke both legs in the skydiving incident on July 8, 2015. (Facebook)

A nine-month investigation into the cause of a near-fatal tandem skydiving crash in Gatineau has found that the reserve parachute deployed improperly, and that skydiving instructors don't receive enough training about how to prevent uncontrolled landings.

A GO Skydive instructor with three years' experience and her client were seriously injured in the crash on July 8, 2015 in Gatineau, Que.
22-year-old instructor Carolyne Breton had 900 jumps and three years' experience skydiving when she crashed July 8, 2015. (Facebook)

Witnesses spotted 22-year-old Carolyne Breton and the 45-year-old customer strapped to her spiraling towards the ground using a reserve parachute. Breton broke her legs, and the client, who had been skydiving for his son's birthday, almost died. He was in life-threatening condition when paramedics rushed him to hospital.

The man — whose name has not been released — and the instructor spent time recovering in hospital and were later transferred to a rehabilitation centre. Gatineau police said they were lucky to have survived.

Quebec workplace safety investigators found that Breton deployed the main parachute and let it go, triggering the reserve parachute to deploy automatically. But a problem with the deployment of the reserve chute sent the pair into a faster-than-normal spinning descent.

Breton tried to regain control but was unsuccessful, and the pair crashed onto the ground.

GO Skydive not facing fines or recommendations

Investigators did not see fit to lay fines or recommendations against GO Skydive, but they did find that the industry in general doesn't provide instructors with enough training on emergency measures to prevent uncontrolled landings in situations involving reserve chutes. At the news conference Monday, investigators called the lack of training an industry-wide problem.

In an emailed statement, GO Skydive said the points raised in the final report "will be taken seriously in order to improve ... practices."

The company, which employs 19 people and has been in operation since 2006, will pay special attention to continuously training instructors on how to handle emergency situations.

"Although the exact cause of the accident of July 8, 2015 is unknown, GO Skydive will pay particular attention to the continuous training of its instructors on how to react in unusual situations under a reserve canopy and will continue to apply the highest industry standards in terms of safety and maintenance of the equipment used," GO Skydive said.

"Skydiving is based on risk management and minimization of it in all circumstances. While it is impossible to eliminate this risk completely, GO Skydive operates according to specific procedures to ensure the best possible level of security for customers and employees."

First investigation of its kind 

Gatineau police handed over the parachute involved in the July 8, 2015 incident to Quebec's workplace safety investigators for analysis. (CBC News)
Today's report marks the first time Quebec's workplace safety inspectors have investigated a skydiving company.

A spokesperson said it took longer than usual — an extra three months — to complete the review.

Paramedics cut the parachute while rescuing the skydivers, making analysis difficult.

There also aren't many parachute experts who can analyze the equipment to determine what went wrong, so the inspectors turned to an expert with the Canadian Forces for help.

Gatineau police investigation found there was no criminal wrongdoing.

The near-deadly crash wasn't the company's first high-profile incident. GO Skydive also made headlines in 2011 when skydivers were forced to jump out of a plane early and land on a highway after an engine failed. An experienced skydiver was injured in 2012 after practicing a high-speed landing. 

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