A skydiving instructor died after he risked his own life to save a student whose parachute failed during a jump. Carl Marsh, 46, fell 1,600 feet after he went to rescue student Dominic Leeds when a piece of his equipment snapped.
When Mr Marsh, a father of one, went to help Mr Leeds release a second reserve parachute, he became entangled in the student’s principal chute as it was jettisoned away.
An inquest heard the tragedy occurred on April 29 last year at the Black Knights Parachute Centre in Cockerham, near Lancaster, which was holding a training day for tandem skydiving.
Mr Marsh, from Knutsford, Cheshire was an expert instructor who had performed 1,150 jumps all over the world.
The pair jumped out at 8,000 feet but as Mr Leeds attempted to release his parachute, a toggle broke and Mr Marsh went to help him.
Mr Leeds – who himself had previously carried out 400 jumps – told the Preston hearing: “I reached up deploy the left hand steering toggle but as I pulled the toggle down the left toggle came off.”
Mr Marsh performed a manouver where he docked on Mr Leeds’ canopy. The father of one then instructed Mr Leeds to “cut away”, releasing his primary chute.
Mr Leeds added: “As I cut free, my primary parachute became wrapped around Carl’s legs.
“I looked back to see that Carl was spiralling with my canopy on the bottom of his legs.”
Mr Marsh’s 19 year-old son Craig, who works at the centre and was present that day told the inquest: “He was the best dad I could have had – he did everything for me. He was always looking out for others and always put other people first before himself.”
Recording a conclusion of misadventure, Coroner James Newman said: “This is a hazardous sport and Carl deliberately put himself in harms way to help his student.
“As part of a canopy formation two parachutes were meant to perform what is known as a ‘stack’ but the other parachute suffered equipment failure.
“Carl Marsh attempted to assist, putting himself at risk and subsequently became entangled in a primary parachute that had been released leading to the involvement of a catastrophic spin.
“This resulted in unconsciousness and Carl was therefore unable to recover the spin and suffered catastrophic and fatal injuries passing away at the scene. It is a testament to his character that he stepped in to help, in doing so he put himself in danger.”
Tony Butler Chief Operating Officer at The British Parachute Organisation told the hearing that over a period of time a knot in the equipment may come loose, causing the toggle to come off.
He said this would have been “easy to miss” when packing a parachute.
His family said in a statement: “Carl was taken away from us so suddenly, that this just doesn’t feel real. Carl was a much loved husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and nephew to all of us and we all loved him very much.
“It is hard to imagine how life will be without Carl. He has left a massive hole in our lives and we will never forget him.
“Carl was an inspiration to us all and his zest for life was demonstrated every day in his love for his family, his strong work ethic and his happy personality.”
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