Saturday, February 24, 2018
Public safety

Instructor tried to save skydiver

NEW PORT RICHEY — Having seen the video that captured the last 60 seconds or so of the skydivers' lives, Detective William Lindsey could say only one thing about Orvar Arnarson, a man he never met:

"He was a hero. He died a hero."

The video, from a camera on Arnarson's helmet, gives investigators their best clues as to why two Icelandic skydivers fell to their deaths Saturday at Skydive City in Zephyr­hills.

The video indicates that the student, Andrimar Pordarson, 25, was unable to yank the pull cord on his parachute, said Lindsey, a detective with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. It's unclear whether Pordarson was unconscious or why he was unable to activate his parachute, Lindsey said.

But the instructor, Arnarson, 41, tried to save him. He tried to pull the cord, Lindsey said, but he couldn't open the chute in time.

There was no dialogue in the video, which Arnarson had planned to use for instructional purposes.

"They were falling at 120 mph," Lindsey said. "All you can hear is wind."

The men, visiting Florida with other skydivers from Iceland, jumped about 10 a.m. Saturday.

Pasco deputies and Zephyrhills police spent several hours searching before deputies in a helicopter spotted the bodies at 7:30 p.m. Saturday off Yonkers Road, south of the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. The medical examiner determined both men died of blunt force trauma.

The Sheriff's Office has received numerous media requests for the videotape from the jump. The agency also heard from the skydivers' family members, who begged for the video not to be released, Lindsey said.

At a news conference Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office described the clues gleaned from the videotape but said it would not be released. The agency cited an exemption under Florida's public records law for recordings depicting the killing of a person.

"It's a very sad ending to two people's lives who were going out there for enjoyment," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

Jim Crouch, director of safety and training at the U.S. Parachute Association, said instructors in America are trained not to try to save a student past the 2,000-foot altitude mark. After that point, he said, instructors are taught to deploy their own parachute and hope the student is saved by the reserve parachute.

Crouch called the case "very unusual." He hasn't seen the video but said there could be several factors, like tumbling out of control, that would either prevent or make dangerous an opportunity to grab and save a falling student.

"If a student is not in control," he said, "it can be difficult to catch somebody in free fall like that."

While the main parachutes were never activated, both packs had backup chutes that deployed. But they did not open in time to stop the divers, Lindsey said. The Federal Aviation Administration will send investigators later this week to look at the equipment, the Sheriff's Office said.

Family and members of the men's skydiving group could not be reached Tuesday afternoon. But a MySpace profile of Arnarson, last updated in 2008, is still viewable.

He was from the capital city of Reykjavik and said he liked to meet positive people. A photo album features jumpers leaping from high cliffs into gorges and seas of clouds, or belly-down in free fall, silhouetted by the setting sun behind them.

One photo shows Arnarson strapped into his parachute pack with his back toward a plane's instrument panel. He wears a smile and mismatched gloves in the thumbs up position.

On another page, he reveals that he loved all kinds of music, watched comedies on TV and hoped to have kids some day.

His list of heroes: "Good people who enjoy life."

Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

Comments
Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

TAMPA — A male motorcyclist died early Saturday morning on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Tampa Police Department said.About 1:35 a.m., the victim rode his motorcycle west on the Courtney Campbell at high speeds, police said. The motorcycle stru...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Broward sheriff’s office launches internal investigations amid questions after Parkland massacre

Broward sheriff’s office launches internal investigations amid questions after Parkland massacre

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating allegations that multiple deputies failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the shooting rampage there, adding to the mounting internal probes examin...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Police: Registered sex offender who attacked Marriott hotel worker arrested

Police: Registered sex offender who attacked Marriott hotel worker arrested

TAMPA — A registered sex offender was arrested early Saturday morning by Tampa Police in connection with a hotel worker who was attacked earlier this week, the department said.John Eckhard, 41, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. on charges of aggravated ba...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

The 13 Turpin siblings gained their freedom last month after one of them escaped through a window and called 911, ending years of imprisonment under parents accused of starving and chaining them to their beds in a putrid home not far from Los Angeles...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Concerned about gun posts, dad turns in son’s phones. Cops find something else.

Concerned about gun posts, dad turns in son’s phones. Cops find something else.

After the Parkland school shooting that horrified the nation, a Miami father told police he was worried about his son’s disturbing posts with guns on Instagram and Snapchat.So he gave investigators his son’s smartphones — and they found child porn, c...
Published: 02/24/18
Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

WASHINGTON — Once again, it was the images of children that propelled President Donald Trump to act. Trump spent the first days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida fixated on the grieving and anguished students and parents. While at his Flor...
Published: 02/24/18
Gun legislation unease looms over Tampa gun show attendees, vendors

Gun legislation unease looms over Tampa gun show attendees, vendors

TAMPA — Hundreds lined up minutes after one of the state’s biggest gun shows opened its doors Saturday morning at the Florida State Fairgrounds.About 400 people from the entrance stood Austin Nichols, a 19-year-old looking to get a deal on bullets. H...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter. If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can cr...
Published: 02/23/18