Supervisor calls for state measure to track skydivers to safe landings

Action sought after jumper falls to death, but nobody knew

A Contra Costa County supervisor is calling for reforms to the skydiving industry after a Martinez resident took a fatal dive last week from Byron Airport.

Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho is urging the industry, along with the U.S. Parachute Association and the Federal Aviation Administration, to institute regulations for confirming a safe landing for every individual who parachutes from a plane.

"I was shocked and outraged to learn that someone could take a skydiving jump" without procedures in place to account for them on the ground afterward, Piepho said in a statement.

Piepho's district encompasses Byron Airport, where 54-year-old Martinez resident Robert Whitsitt died in a skydiving accident Sunday.

Whitsitt, an experienced, licensed skydiver who frequented the airport on weekends, was reported missing by family last Monday morning after he did not return home.

The day before, he had boarded a plane with a private skydiving company and jumped out at 13,000 feet. For reasons unknown, his parachute and his back-up parachute did not deploy. Whitsitt owned and packed his own equipment.

Currently, skydiving companies are not required to supervise private jumpers such as Whitsitt, who was not required to check in with anyone after the jump.

"Absent the industry taking quick and bold action, the state Legislature should consider legislation to address the need for this common-sense yet unregulated safety measure," Piepho said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 30, 2010 at 9:10 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

If there ever was a situation crying for no legislation, this is it. For crying out loud, let 'em jump in peace. If they need help, they can call 911.

Like this comment
Posted by Julia
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2010 at 9:18 am

What a stupid comment...jumping out at 2,000 plus feet, shut not opening...falling at a rate of who knows what...calling 911 and the operator says, "please hold a moment I will be right with you".

I don't believe I have ever read a comment from mooseturd (BTW a fitting name). If there was know posted name I would think this is a Cholo comment.

Thanks for listening, Julia from Alamo

Like this comment
Posted by thoughtful
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:43 am

I think it's a great idea for our state to spend more tax money it doesn't have towards passing and enforcing legislation to protect an icredibly small community from themselves. It seems so unlikely that they might observe a loss of one of their own and appreciate the fact that they as a community could implement their own practices to keep a similar event from happening again.

Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho obviously knows what's important. Skydivers need to have Uncle Sam telling them how to take care of themselves much more than schools need the resources for educating our children.

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Posted by Flyer
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I work at a dropzone in another part of the country. Here, there is always someone (or more than one person) watching the landings and will report to the office if a jumper lands off the airport. The jumpers also watch out for each other and will report if someone is noticed to be "missing". To legislate something that should be common sense is both time and money consuming; and IMO does not need to be done.

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Posted by curly
a resident of Charter Oaks
on Aug 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I'm "shocked and outraged" by Mary Piepho and all others of her ilk that immediately think all things can be solved by laws. The guy jumped out of an airplane, stuff happens. Just because nobody knows about it is no reason to get histerical. Let it go...

Like this comment
Posted by Miss Prim
a resident of Danville
on Aug 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Mary Piepho is doing a fine job, and this is the latest example of where she has her finger on the pulse of what's really important to the citizens of Contra Costa County!

I would only suggest to Mary that she think a little broader: we need the same kind of service she's suggesting for sky divers to check and ensure that everyone who drives a car, rides a bike, or goes for a walk arrives safely. Just imagine the worry of folks who don't know whether their loved ones are OK!

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Posted by No more government
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:48 am

Another example of our politicians and society's rush to "protect" citizens. At what cost???? Let's not waste precious tax payer dollars creating, reviewing, approving and enforcing legislation that would have done NOTHING to change the outcome of this unfortunate situation.

Like this comment
Posted by bob123
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:51 am

Here we go! More things for government to control-- why not just order everyone to wear a helmet fulltime! Living in"her " district means having the Alamo Improvement Assn tossed out of a leadership role ( after 25 years) of controlling growth in favor of her hand picked MAC--another unnecesary level of cronyism government.If a guy wants to jump from a perfectly good aircraft that is his option.. where and how he lands is his responsiblity and the do gooders need to step back and keep their "we know better than you " attitudes for some other problem--oh yeah , like the massive Contra Costa budget deficeit, the ongoing public servant pension problems, and the crappy schools in her part of the county--but why waste time worrying about things like that when we can take a stand to insure the recreational skydiving industry takes "quick and bold" action!

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Posted by P-town Dad
a resident of Amador Estates
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:56 am

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Now we have California politicians entertaining us by dreaming up obscure laws while California is in a financial inferno.

According to the United States Parachute Association there are fewer than 25 deaths per year in the entire United States! (Source: Web Link)

I don't appreciate politicians who don't have any common sense. Millions of Californians are suffering from our budget woes, including my children in California schools, while Mary worries about tying up precious legislative time, and our tax dollars, for a problem that affects 25 people in the United States each year.

Mary, if you want to get passionate about something, find something in the Contra Costra county budget to address, or even the California state budget. Perhaps those issues are too politically dangerous so you choose a heartwarming topic to win votes. Get practical!

Like this comment
Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Aug 31, 2010 at 11:27 am

...They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into, I say let em' crash!"

Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, please for the sake of all things ironic & worthy of late night talk show comedians material for a week, please do not give up your support of this legislation. We the people desperately need fodder & good ammunition for our never ending battle against the inherent waste, asinine ridiculous government legislation, frivolous & unnecessary spending that seems to seep from every level of government. You are truly working for that .002% of your constituency & I'm sure the other 99.998% will agree & either this or next November will be the last we hear from you.

Like this comment
Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Unreal. This has to be the most disrespectful group of commenters I have yet to come across on any given subject.

What if it was one of your loved ones/family/a friend jumped and was severly injured but had no way of notifying anyone once they hit the ground (alive). You think they should lay there and die since no one knows that they are not ok?

Geesh, can you people get past your petty small minded opinions and realize there is a need for this. (Especially since the industry has not initiated it on it own.)

You think it is smart that people can parachute with the very real possiblity of injury and not be provided help?

Thank God most people don't share your "opinions". Suggesting that legislators have "better things to do" shows true hypocrisy. Don't you people have something better to do?

You people make me sick.

Like this comment
Posted by Rick Rolla
a resident of Avignon
on Aug 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Mary Piepho is doing a fine job. [Portion removed]

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Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 31, 2010 at 3:29 pm

mooseturd is a registered user.

Dear Informed Resident,

Please don't spend my tax money on this needless legislation. The system already exists. Diver calls home and says, "I'm jumping". Two minutes later diver calls home again and says, "I made it." Second call doesn't come and family sends a search party.

I hope to heaven that legislators have better things to do.

Like this comment
Posted by D W
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I can't stand governments spending money tax payers don't have either.

But tell me: what is cheaper - our tax money or our county's insurance liability? Like it or not, Whitsitt's accident has Co Co County on the hook no matter what action is or is not taken.

There's nothing fun about ranting against the government when the subject is an unnecessary loss of life that could have been prevented through proper communications. (Pity the fools who think otherwise.) Nobody is trying to legislate anything.

What is wrong with asking for accountability? That's all most Co Co citizens want, for all Skydivers to take responsibility for each other. Most other counties are already have guidelines set that do not cost taxpayers any money. You can even look at the counties next door, one of which thinks the same way that our many zealoted bloggers think. Everyone in a suit and parachute is responsible for each other.

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Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Sep 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

I do not think CoCo is on the hook because someone used their air to jump from an airplane (to their death). And, please tell me what exactly would have changed if this event had been promptly reported. We don't need a law to make everyone in a suit and parachute responsible for each other.

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Posted by bob123
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

Dear informed resident and DW,

If CoCo is 'on the hook" for this than this is one case I will volunteer to try on behalf of the County free of charge and guarantee a defense verdict! And frankly Informed-at what point does the soft heads start wearing helmets all day long to avoid taking responsiblity for their own actions? Time to stop spending MY money on people who have zero regard for their own actions! And on politicians who think everyone needs a goverenment directive or guideline on how to get out of bed in the morning! It is that kind of thinking that got us and keeps us where we are today-- clueless, dependent on government programs and completely unmotivated to achieve even the smallest of goals yet absolutely ready to blame those who do and complain THEY have too much money and should give you some!

Like this comment
Posted by Waterworld
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

This is unfortunately not about the poor victim of accident. This is "All about Mary". Her spotlight of attention at the death of a person sickens me. Common sense needs no legislation. It also does not need a county supervisor to make it. Mary Piepho should be ashamed of herself to use this tragic accident as a platform of political self gain.

I must say though the 911 comment posted was pretty comical. I think what the poster was trying to say was there should always be a spotter or buddy system so 911 can be called. That again does not need legislation just common sense.

Mary Piepho, please focus more of your attention on the financial position you have allowed the county to fall into. You have had seven years. I hope the voters say enough is enough.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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