Tragic death of skydiver after mid-air collision

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New safety measures are in place at Sibson Aerodrome after a skydiver died following a mid-air collision last year, an inquest has been told.

Leading wine merchant Patrick Sandeman, 53, from Putney, in London, suffered fatal injuries after colliding with another skydiver on the approach to the landing zone on September 22.

At an inquest into his death, held in Huntingdon, chief instructor at Sibson Aerodrome Chris McCann gave evidence saying that no previous incidents of this kind had happened at the 
airfield. He said new measures, including set landing patterns, were now in place with a 
view to avoiding further tragedies.

The other skydiver involved in the collision, Matt Le Berre gave evidence at the inquest and described the moments leading to the accident.

Mr Le Berre, 28, who was seriously injured in the collision, said he was slowing after performing an advanced “swooping” manoeuvre and could not stop in time before hitting Mr Sandeman about 50ft above the ground, tangling their parachute lines, before they fell to the ground.

The inquest heard expert analysis that Mr Sandeman performed a high speed “spiralling” manoeuvre which could have caught out Mr Le Berre.

Both spiralling and swooping turns make it difficult for skydivers to predict one another’s movements.

Witnesses gave conflicting accounts as to which man collided with the other, but Tony Butler, technical officer for the British Parachute Association, who conducted an investigation, said he was now convinced that Mr Sandeman collided with Mr Le Berre.

Deputy coroner Belinda Cheney recorded a verdict of accidental death and added that it was “more likely than not” that it was Mr Sandeman who collided with Mr Le Berre.

She said: “I don’t think anybody’s ever going to know what direction Mr Sandeman was coming from and whether he did anything wrong.”

Speaking after the inquest, an aerodrome spokesman said the set landing patterns had been introduced as a result of national guidance by the British Parachute Association, not as a direct consequence of Mr Sandeman’s death.

Describing the death as a “tragic accident” and Mr Sandeman as a “good friend”, the spokesman added: “We pass on our condolences, as we have done privately, to the family.”