Skydiving Birthday Celebration Turns Into Horror for Woman, 75

Oct 10, 2011 3:03pm

A 75-year-old woman plunged to her death while skydiving for the first time as a part of her birthday celebration.

Claudette Porter had always dreamed of going skydiving, so her granddaughter arranged for the North Las Vegas, Nev. woman to have the thrill of her life, Porter’s husband Jim told the Associated Press.

Porter and a handful of onlookers watched from the ground what was supposed to be an exciting moment turn to tragedy when his wife and her seasoned instructor, James Fonnesbeck, 60, suffered what appeared to be a parachute malfunction.

Fonnesbeck was pronounced dead at the scene, while  Porter was taken to Mesa View Regional Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Brad Jessey, the owner of Skydive Mesquite, where the pair was jumping witnessed the horrific scene.

“I could tell something was wrong. I called 911 right away,” he said. “[James Fonnesbeck] was a really, really good skydiver. I don’t understand what happened.”

Jessey told ABCNews.com that Fonnesbeck was had completed at least 11,000 jumps, many of them tandem, and had appeared as a skydiving Elvis Presley in the 1992 movie “Honeymoon in Vegas.”

According to the United States Parachute Association, there has been one fatality for every 141,509 skydives over the past five years.

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