On Wednesday, January 31, 2023, a 73-year-old experienced skydiver died following a parachute malfunction during a jump in Eloy, Arizona.
Terry Gardner, a resident of Casa Grande, was participating in his third skydive of the day with three companions from Skydive Arizona when the accident occurred.
The group of four skilled skydivers had planned a formation jump from approximately 14,000 feet. A skydiving formation jump, or relative work or formation skydiving (FS), involves multiple skydivers exiting an aircraft and maneuvering in freefall to create patterns or formations before separating at a designated altitude to deploy their parachutes.
Unlike his fellow skydivers whose chutes opened, Gardner encountered critical issues with his parachute’s deployment, leading to a rapid descent and causing him to hit the ground with great force.
Responders from the Eloy Fire Department quickly provided emergency aid at the scene before transporting Gardner to Banner Casa Grande Medical Center. Despite these immediate efforts, Gardner later passed away from his injuries.
This event marks the second fatal skydiving incident in Eloy within a month. Previously, on January 14, 2023, a hot air balloon crash resulted in the death of four individuals, the pilot and three passengers, with another passenger critically injured.
Preliminary findings from federal investigators suggest an issue with the balloon’s envelope might have contributed to the tragedy. Notably, eight skydivers had successfully executed their jumps before the balloon’s crash.
In the wake of Gardner’s death, Skydive Arizona and the Eloy Police Department have issued statements expressing their deep condolences to his family, friends, and fellow skydivers.
Sara Curtis, the vice mayor of Eloy and an experienced skydiver, remarked on the tragic loss, emphasizing that he passed away engaged in his cherished activities, fulfilling his ambitions and passions.
She added that as an organizer, Gardner was pivotal in leading and teaching others the art of skydiving, being recognized for his proficiency and guidance.
She reminisced about her skydiving experiences with Gardner, noting that his wife was also connected to the skydiving world through her work at Skydive Arizona.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken charge of the investigation, focusing on the parachute’s packing and compliance with flight regulations for the pilot and aircraft.
Skydive Arizona noted that Gardner was an avid skydiver, boasting several thousand jumps. He utilized his own skydiving gear, which he maintained, and the jump took place under clear and calm weather conditions.