Memorial Jump Planned for Fallen Skydiver

Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010  |  Updated 2:15 PM PDT
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Memorial Jump Planned for Fallen Skydiver

Raise the Sky

Raise the Sky: "We drop out of planes to keep kids from dropping out of school"

A group of skydivers is planning a memorial jump at Byron Airport  next Sunday for Martinez resident Robert Whitsitt, who died in a skydiving  accident over the weekend.

Gareth Holder, an instructor at Bay Area Skydiving, said the group  is still working to coordinate the memorial jump with Whitsitt's family, but  that tentative plans are for 10 to 14 people to jump together on Sunday.

If Whitsitt's body has been cremated by that time, they will  release his ashes into freefall, Holder said.

 Whitsitt, 54, was an experienced, licensed skydiver who often  jumped at Byron Airport in unincorporated eastern Contra Costa County on the  weekends, Holder said.

On Sunday, he got on a plane with the skydiving company at about 3  p.m. and jumped out at 13,000 feet, Holder said.

Nobody saw what happened next, but for some reason, Whitsitt did  not deploy his parachute or his back-up parachute, Holder said.

He said that it does not appear that Whitsitt's equipment failed,  but that he for some reason failed to use it.

"Maybe he was incapacitated in some other way," Holder said.

 The skydiving company is not required to supervise private  jumpers. Whitsitt owned and packed his own equipment, and was not required to  check in with anyone once he landed, which is why nobody knew until Monday  that he had died, Holder said.

Whitsitt's family reported him missing Monday morning and his body  was found a short time later at the airport about half a mile from the center  of the landing zone, directly under where he had jumped out of the plane,  Holder said.

 The Contra Costa County coroner's office conducted an autopsy on  Whitsitt's body on Tuesday and determined that he died from multiple extreme  blunt force injuries due to a skydiving accident.

Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said no foul  play is suspected and the investigation had been completed.
 

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