A Newmarket woman who was an experienced, licenced skydiver has been identified as the victim of a fatal accident this past holiday weekend in Georgina.
Alana Shamrock, 28, plummeted to her death Saturday after experiencing equipment failure, York Regional Police said.
There does not appear to be any element of criminality and Transport Canada will conduct its own investigation into what took place, Const. Andy Pattenden confirmed yesterday.
Born in Calgary, Alta., Ms Shamrock was passionate about skydiving, knitting, scrapbooking, travelling, music and patient advocacy, according to a book of memories posted on Facebook.
“We are so very sorry for what happened to Alana and our thoughts go to the family and dear friends left behind with unanswered questions,” one post states.
“May time and quality time with dearest ones help heal the broken hearts. Hugs from your Danish/American family.”
Ms Shamrock was also described as one of those people in life who can leave a mark so deep in one’s heart, she is hard to forget.
“You, Miss Alana, are one of them. May God bless you and your family. Rest in peace. Love ya... Miss ya... Mean it! Mama Bear.”
The accident occurred just before 8 p.m. Saturday on Old Homestead Road in the area of Valley View Road — less than two kilometres from the Baldwin Airport, out of which the Parachute School of Toronto operates.
There were unconfirmed reports of both the main and reserve chutes failing to open during the fatal skydive.
That was not the case, according to school president Adam Mabee, who said the continuing investigation will determine what happened beyond a blanket statement of parachute failure.
“The main parachute did open, but not properly,” he said yesterday, adding Ms Shamrock went through her emergency procedures, but the reserve chute was not inflated before she hit the ground.
“At this point, why is completely unknown,” he said. “We may get significant answers from an examination of the equipment to give an accurate timeline to clarify things.”
Saddened to hear a second skydiver had lost their life in the past year jumping with the school, some residents said they felt something terrible was up when they noticed an air ambulance circling, but not landing, in the area Saturday.
The recent tragedy has once again shaken the tiny community of Baldwin, which has become accustomed to the odd errant skydiver making unexpected, but still safe, landings in their back yards.
There were a handful of people who suggested one fatality is too many.
“They should shut the place down,” said one woman, who did not want to be identified. “That’s too many.”
Last July, 42-year-old Igor Zaitsev, an advanced parachute student from Toronto, sustained fatal injuries when he landed in a yard near Hwy. 48 and Smith Boulevard.
In August 2002, Gareth Rodgers, 38, was on his fifth jump with the school when his main and reserve chutes failed to open.
Skydiving fatalities happen on average two to three times a year across Canada, Mr. Mabee said.
“Any time anything happens, it’s difficult, but this is a little more challenging,” he said. “Everybody around here knew her and liked her.”
Ms Shamrock was a regular jumper and casual staff member at the school, which runs about 10,000 annual jumps and has trained more than 55,000 first-time jumpers.
As a seasoned, licenced jumper, Ms Shamrock had jumped more than 250 times.
The very tight-knit jumping community of which she was a part has been left devastated in the wake of the tragedy.
“It’s hard, but the mutual support in the entire skydiving community between all jumpers is likely helping a lot of people right now,” Mr. Mabee said, adding everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with the family and Alana’s many friends.
While some people concede there are inherent risks with the extreme sport, they still want to know if any safety issues stem from human error or equipment problems surrounding the accidents.
Few details of the accident are available at this point, Mr. Mabee said, adding any conclusive findings from an investigation of the equipment may not only explain what happened, but also help keep the sport of skydiving as safe as possible in the future.
A lot of time is invested in safety training, procedure and protocol, he said.
With no criminal element to Saturday’s accident, the investigation has been turned over to Transport Canada.
Experts with the Canadian Forces Advanced Warfare Centre were called in to conduct a forensic examination of the skydiving equipment related to last July’s accident, but no issues were found there, Mr. Mabee said, adding nothing immediately obvious stands out regarding Ms Shamrock’s equipment at this point.
Funeral services for Ms Shamrock, who was a University of Waterloo graduate and attended Conestoga College and Resurrection Catholic Secondary School, will be held tomorrow in Kitchener.