Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Instructor tried to save skydiver

Instructor Orvar Arnarson was with a group from Iceland.

Instructor Orvar Arnarson was with a group from Iceland.

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 or (727) 869-6247.

Instructor tried to save skydiver 03/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]