Drifted Outside Landing Zone, Into Rough Waters
A parachutist with more
than 10,000 jumps and his skydiving student lost their lives Friday
when they overshot a landing area while on a tandem jump at
Dillingham Airfield on Mokuleia, HI.
They came down about 300 yards offshore, in shallow waters no
more than five feet deep -- but with violent waves breaking over
the reef. Rescuers on jetskis attempted to reach the two as they
were pulled under the surface, but were unable to aid the victims
"Everybody worked together as best they could," said Fire
Captain Kenison Tejada, whose crew also responded to the scene.
"But both of the victims were tangled up in the parachute and all
of the cords."
"The rescue was tough for everybody involved given the waves and
the really sharp coral," he added.
Officials from Skydive Hawaii told the Honolulu Advertiser the
instructor was 69-year-old Erich "Max" Mueller (below, right). His
student was identified as Saori Takahashi, 33, of Hokkaido,
Company president Frank Hinshaw said Takahashi's boyfriend took
a tandem jump from the same flight with a different instructor, and
had landed safely.
"This has been a devastating day for our skydiving family and
the community in general," Hinshaw said about an hour after the
Friday morning accident.
Conditions were prime for skydiving, according to Hinshaw --
winds blowing at roughly 9 knots, with only a few clouds in the
There were no signs of
trouble, according to witnesses, until they saw the two drift over
It is the second fatal accident for Skydive Hawaii in less than
a year. Last February, a 24-year-old man lost his life on a jump
after a lineover malfunction. According to the Advertiser, the
company had another fatal accident in 1991.
FAA investigators will review all matters related to the
incident, according to the newspaper, including a videotape of the
Meanwhile, life goes on for the Hawaiian skydiving
"It is not a sad thing -- well, it is sad, but for the
community, it is a part of the sport," said Guy Banal, the
president and owner of Pacific Skydiving Center -- and who has had
a few close calls himself, in his nearly 40 years of skydiving.
"We try not to cry too much about it," he said, "because the guy
left doing what he liked."