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Instructor in deadly tandem jump lacked FAA license, skydiving group says

A skydiving instructor involved in a deadly tandem jump earlier this month lacked proper licensing and may not have met other Federal Aviation Administration regulations, according to a national skydiving organization.

The instructor, identified as Yong Kwon of South Korea, had leaped from an aircraft with first-time jumper Tyler Turner on Saturday. Their parachute did not deploy until they hit the ground. Both died.

FAA inspectors are investigating the incident at Skydive Lodi Parachute Center in Acampo.

An FAA guideline for tandem jumps requires an instructor to hold a master parachute license issued by an organization recognized by the FAA. However, the U.S. Parachute Assn., the only FAA-accepted, nationally recognized skydiving organization that licenses skydivers in the nation, said Thursday that it had not issued Kwon a license.

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“He was never a member and therefore was never issued a ... license by us,” said Ed Scott, executive director of USPA.

An FAA spokesman said the agency’s investigation includes looking into the instructor’s qualifications. The agency said it does not comment on pending investigations.

Following the deadly jump, Parachute Center owner Bill Dause told KCRA-TV the instructor was an independent contractor who had made about 700 jumps.

“The parachute failed to eject properly. We have no explanation why,” Dause said. “The only thing it looks like is something may have gone out of sequence [and] that may have caused the problem.”

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When reached by phone Thursday, Dause declined to comment.

FAA regulations also include successfully completing a tandem instructor course and receiving certification, which can be met through USPA or the manufacturer of the tandem equipment used.

The manufacturing company, United Parachute Technologies, has no record of Kwon, Scott said.

“It’s a very serious red flag. Whether they affiliate with us or not, every business owner should be complying with the aviation regulations,” Scott said. “It indicates here in this instance that that had not been met. That that instructor did not meet the regulations, possibly others. We don’t know.”

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Scott said the organization has begun to look at other instructors at Skydive Lodi Parachute Center to see if they meet FAA guidelines.

The FAA has investigated multiple skydiving accidents at the parachuting center over the years, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

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

There are 240 skydiving businesses around the U.S. that affiliate with USPA, Scott said.

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“In doing so, they pledge to us in writing that they will use USPA-certified instructors,” Scott said. “That location was not affiliated with us. We really don’t know what their standard is.”

Dause’s USPA instructor ratings have been suspended by the organization.

“That means he cannot teach a first jump course, he cannot take a student on a first jump, nor can he act as a coach and train novices,” Scott said.

Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

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