The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has determined that a fatal skydiving accident that killed a Simla man on Oct. 19 at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport in Longmont was an accident.
While the sheriff’s office deemed the death of 23-year-old Logan Polfuss “an unfortunate and tragic accident,” it’s still not clear why Mile-Hi Skydiving did not notice Polfuss was missing after he jumped.
According to the report obtained by the Times-Call on Friday, a detective spoke with the owner of the skydiving business, Frank Casares Jr., on Oct. 22.
Casares was “physically and emotionally saddened” by the incident, the detective wrote in the report. Casares said that Polfuss was a sharp and kind young man, and he had believed that Polfuss was an experienced skydiver as he had jumped more than 180 times.
When the detective asked for the company’s procedure for keeping track of the skydivers, Casares said that was “something that he was actively looking into right now,” according to the report.
Casares told police that Mile-Hi has a ground crew manager who counts canopies, or parachutes, as they open. There is also a truck that picks skydivers up and brings them back to the airport’s runway, and that driver helps keep track of skydivers.
There is no regulation requiring facility employees to watch the landings of licensed skydivers.
Casares did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Boulder County Coroner’s Office also ruled the death an accident, likely due to incorrect equipment. The pathologist who conducted the autopsy said Polfuss died on impact with the ground due to multiple blunt force injuries.
Detectives spoke with Shawn Carroll, one of the head instructors who also was one of eight people who jumped along with Polfuss. Carroll said that Polfuss was a “very experienced sport jumper” and he recalled him using two-piece tracking suits in the past. He confirmed that it was the first time Polfuss had been using a one-piece suit, and he saw another skydiver doing a gear check for Polfuss.
Carroll told police he wasn’t sure if Polfuss was “technically ready” for the more advanced suit. When detectives asked for his professional opinion, Carroll said it’s possible that Polfuss lost track of his altitude drop due to using a more technical suit.
FAA inspectorstold detectives that incorrect gear was likely the reason for Polfuss’s death. He was using a pilot chute that was 28 inches in diameter and a 6-foot pilot bridle, which connects the pilot chute to the deployment bag. For the type of suit Polfuss was wearing, it’s recommended that the skydiver use a 9-foot bridle and 36-inch chute.
While the United States Parachute Association regulates its members with its Basic Safety Requirements, they apply only to wingsuits, rendering it irrelevant in this case.
“For a manufacturer’s recommendation, compliance is up to the individual licensed jumper, not the drop zone,” said Nancy Koreen, director of sport promotion for the association.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, [email protected]
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