A fatal skydiving accident claims Marietta man, injures another - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

A fatal skydiving accident claims Marietta man, injures another


At 13,000 feet three friends jumped out of a plane. What happened next is not entirely clear. But one thing is certain, one of them collided with another and it cost Donald Bragg his life.

Bragg, 26, was from Marietta. He and his friends were all experienced skydivers, each with at least 100 jumps. At least one with close to 400.

They were jumping out of Skydive the Farm's plane. The skydiving business caters to sports skydivers who own and use their own equipment, and first-timers via tandem jumps with highly trained and experienced instructors.

Paul McGowan was friends with the skydivers involved in the accident, and is at Skydive the Farm practically every weekend with his wife.

"It was an absolute freak of an accident," said McGowan. "This is so much safer than even driving here or driving home."

He isn't being hyperbolic. According to the United States Parachute Association, there were an estimated 3.2 million skydiving jumps in 2013. Just 24 of those ended with a fatality.

No one knows what killed Bragg on Saturday. It could have been the collision with the other skydiver, or the uncontrolled landing.

Steve Haseman is the safety and training advisor for Skydive the Farm. He says camera footage they've recovered has only given them a partial picture of what happened.

"They did have good open parachutes but when they collided with each other both of them became unconscious," said Haseman.

Since the parachute acts like a wing, it needs to be flown. If its pilot is unconscious that can't happen.

That means their decent, while slower than free falling is uncontrolled and at the mercy of the winds.

Likewise the landing, which is one of the most important parts, can come to a sudden stop without the skydiver using the brakes.

Even with so many unanswered questions, friends and fellow skydivers are not fearful of continuing to enjoy the sport they love.

"You don't necessarily put yourself in a cocoon and live in a bubble because of a tragedy that happened," said McGowan. "You go out and you still do what you're doing. There's no way to respect someone more than by going out and doing what they loved."

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