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California

Skydiver killed in collision with a semi-truck near Lodi is identified

The approximate location of the Lodi Parachute Center
The approximate location of the Lodi Parachute Center. A skydiver was killed Thursday in a traffic accident involving a semi-truck.
(Los Angeles Times)

A Colombian woman has been identified as the parachutist who died last week when she struck a semi-truck traveling on Highway 99 near Lodi.

The skydiving accident occurred about 2:15 p.m. Thursday, when the woman — identified by the San Joaquin County coroner’s office as 28-year-old Maria Robledo Vallejo — flew off course. According to the California Highway Patrol, she hit a big-rig trailer before landing on the shoulder of southbound Highway 99, just across the street from the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center in Acampo.

Vallejo was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bill Dause, owner of the center, said during a news conference that Vallejo was an experienced parachutist and had made 150 jumps since she started visiting the center during trips from Colombia.

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“Why she went that far downwind, nobody knows,” he said. “It’s a decision she made.”

The Federal Aviation Administration has investigated multiple skydiving accidents at the center over the years, spokesman Ian Gregor previously told The Times.

Less than a year ago, an experienced skydiver died when her parachute failed to open properly during a jump. She was using her own equipment.

In 2016, the FAA also investigated the facility after a first-time jumper and skydiving instructor were killed in a tandem jump. Authorities later determined the instructor lacked proper licensing.

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And in 2010, the FAA proposed a $664,000 penalty against Dause for allegedly failing to replace required parts on a De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter plane and comply with airworthiness directives. The agency alleged that more than 2,000 flights were conducted despite parts being “well past their life limits.”

Dause said conditions at the time of Vallejo’s death were a little bit windy, with gusts at the time perhaps at 15 to 20 mph. It’s a common occurrence in the area, he said, but well within the limits of Vallejo’s experience.

At least 15 other people had landed where they were supposed to land, Dause said.

Vallejo arrived at the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center two weeks ago during her most recent trip to California and made about 20 jumps. Dause said that it was the fourth time she had visited the center and that she had earned a license to make jumps on her own.

“Was it windy? Yes. Was it too windy? No, not for her experience level,” Dause said. “She had literally made a run downwind over the freeway, and everybody else stopped long before the freeway and faced into the wind.”

Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.


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