Skydiver tells inquest he saw solo jumper fall
A SENIOR skydiver has told a coronial inquest he saw a solo jumper fall to earth trailing two parachutes the day of a fatal mid air collision above Mission Beach last year.
Damian Gerard McGrath, 56, worked as a tandem jump master and Drop Zone Safety Officer at Sky Dive Australia Mission Beach in 2017.
With more than 20,000 jumps under his belt he is the most experienced skydiver to have given evidence thus far at the inquest into the deaths of Toby Turner, 34, Peter Dawson, 35, and Kerri Pike, 54, on October 13 last year.
Mr Turner was conducting a solo sports jump when instructor Peter Dawson and passenger Kerri Pike were descending on a tandem skydive.
The three collided at speeds in excess of 200km.
In a statement to the Cairns Forensic Crash Unit, Mr McGrath said he saw Mr Turner descending with both his main canopy and reserve chute deployed.
"I looked to the north and I saw two parachutes out - a reserve and a main parachute dragging and spinning behind," Mr McGrath told Sgt Scott Ezard.
"I thought 'oh s**t'".
"I thought he would be fine, that he had trouble cutting (the main canopy) away."
Mr McGrath was the first Sky Dive Australia employee to find Mr Turner's body.
"I saw Toby on a vacant block, he was surrounded by local people - they were looking shocked," Mr McGrath said.
He told police it appeared as if the reserve chute had slowed Mr Turner's descent and that there was no indentation in the ground.
"He had not hit hard or anything … he was already gone at that stage," the statement read.
Mr McGrath saw that Mr Turner's helmet had sustained significant damage.
"The helmet was quite broken, it was a heavy collision," he told Cairns Coronial Court today.
"I was thinking the collision was in free fall."
When he saw that Mr Turner's main canopy had been damaged, he thought the tandem pair had crashed through the parachute.
"That's the only way that holes in the parachute would be caused as far as I can tell - they must have gone through it."
An Australian Parachute Federation report found that the collision was likely caused by the early deployment of Mr Turner's parachute as he was flying underneath the tandem couple.
The inquest continues.