THE final moments before two skydivers jumped to their deaths in a tragic accident on Saturday have been captured on video by another parachutist who left the plane seconds before them.
Dustin Leonard filmed the men — an instructor with thousands of hours of parachuting experience and a Singaporean man strapped to him for a tandem jump — as they lined up at the aircraft’s door.
The GoPro camera footage captures the high spirits on the flight with the instructor, aged in his 60s, smiling in anticipation.
A minute later both men were dead after their chute failed to open and they landed in the driveway of a rural home at Wilton, about 85km south-west of Sydney, about 2pm.
“I think it’s just tragic. It’s just a fluke accident,” said Mr Leonard, CEO of Hero Condoms, a company which donates condoms to developing countries fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
They were the only tandem skydivers on the flight, “and they were the last to jump”, Mr Leonard said.
When Mr Leonard landed he walked back to the parachute company office to sign up for a second jump scheduled for the afternoon.
“We got notified that some guys might have landed far away,” he said. “I don’t think anyone knew something bad had happened.”
Police and emergency services were called by a resident who saw the victims hit the ground.
A seven-year-old girl who was one of several children at the home had to be counselled after seeing the bodies shortly after the accident.
The Sydney-based instructor and the other man in his 20s, in Australia on a work visa, were jumping with well-known company Sydney Skydivers.
Chase Stephenson, who co-owns the property, said his daughter had been distressed at the sight of the bodies. Mr Stephenson said: “She has seen the aftermath. She hasn’t seen them hit the ground but she is pretty traumatised. It’s a shocking thing for a young girl. She’s very shaken up by it and has spoken to a counsellor.”
Mr Stephenson said he was told of the incident by his sister and mother, who live at the property.
“I’ve been told they landed in the driveway. So there’s no real nice way to put it,” he said. “It’s not the sort of thing you expect to happen.”
He said his five-year-old nephew also saw the bodies and his two-year-old niece was there but was unaware of what had occurred.
Sydney Skydivers owner Phil Onis said his employee had 20 years experience and that his skydivers normally had two parachutes.
“We are keen to get in there and find out what happened,” he said.
Mr Leonard said: “There are risks with solo jumps, but there should be no risk with a tandem jump. Skydiving, statistically, is almost safer than driving a car.”