An experienced skydiver who was skydiving at the Lost Prairie Boogie near Marion died Saturday morning after a parachute malfunction.
According to information from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, the man was identified as Gerald F. Fischer, 81, of Moorhead, Minnesota.
Witness statements indicate the seasoned skydiver — who had completed more than 2,000 jumps — experienced a “hard opening” when opening his parachute, a press release from the Sheriff’s Office said.
After opening the parachute, Fischer began a counter-clockwise turn under an open canopy at about 4,000 feet and continued the counter-clockwise turn until landing in a pasture. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tammy Arlint, of Kalispell, was there with her husband, John, watching her father, 81-year-old Ed Krona, skydive with her two sons and a nephew. Her family members had landed safely and were celebrating when the tragedy unfolded in front of them.
“It was devastating to see,” Tammy said. “I looked away before the person hit the ground.”
Arlint said the rest of the event was canceled.
The Lost Prairie Boogie, held Aug. 3-11, is one of the largest events of its kind in the West. This year was its 52nd event.
The nine-day summer camp for skydivers draws hundreds of jumpers from around the country and the world.
The event has seen several deaths over the years.
According to previous Daily Inter Lake accounts, 27-year-old Zack Fogle, of Kingston, Washington, died in 2011.
A Colorado man, Garl “Mike” Newby died when his parachute became entangled with another jumper’s equipment during a formation dive July 28, 2010.
Five people, including Kalispell resident Joel Atkinson, 25, died at the airfield located about 30 miles west of Kalispell when a skydiving plane crashed shortly after takeoff May 12, 2007.