A California drop zone that has been featured by media outlets in a number of stories regarding skydive fatalities was recently raided by the FBI. The Lodi Parachute Center was served with a search warrant this week as federal agents overran the facility.
In the past, the skydive center had been much maligned for lackadaisical training practices and not properly ensuring the instructors employed there were properly certified. Since 2000, 15 people have died at the skydive center. Between the years 2016 and 2017, 5 fatalities were attributed to accidents that occurred during skydives executed at the San Joaquin County drop zone.
Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed into effect a law requiring owners or operators of a skydiving/parachuting operation be responsible for ensuring that instructors in command of a tandem jump and the parachute rigger responsible for packing the chute are in compliance with federal laws relating to parachute safety and certification.
The legislation, called Tyler’s Law was put before the governor following the death on an 18-year-old Los Banos novice skydiver, Tyler Turner who, alongside his Tandem Instructor 25-year-old Young Kwon, were killed when their parachute malfunctioned in August of 2016. It was determined that Mr. Kwon was under the impression he had received proper certification following his skydive training but later was confirmed he had not received adequate training or been appropriately licensed.
Following investigations into Tyler’s accident, the USPA revoked the licensure of over 140 instructors who had received training at the skydive center and had mandated they be restrained to be certified in the future.
In September 2017, the FAA indicated they were investigating an accident in which an Alamo man, Brett Hawton, 54, died after he crash-landed in the parking lot of a nearby business.
Tuesday agents with the Federal Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General were seen carrying boxes out of the parachute center. Calls made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation saw officials confirm that agents were, in fact, acting on a warrant at the skydive center but they wouldn’t comment further regarding what the investigation yielded.
Reports have mentioned the Lodi skydive center was originally established in 1964 and was one of the oldest drop zones in operation.