Half of all skydiving-related deaths in U.S. this year connected to Longmont business

LONGMONT, Colo. — It takes a special kind of person to jump out of a plane miles above the Earth. Family friends describe Brock Barto as exactly that, inspiring and passionate about skydiving.

Barto died while skydiving with Mile-Hi Skydiving over the weekend, making him the third person to die from injuries related to a jump at the business in 2019. Four people have died from jumps at the businesses since October 2018.

“It certainly has our attention,” said executive director of the United States Parachute Association Ed Scott. The USPA licenses skydivers, rates instructors and plays a big role in setting industry standards for safety. Scott says a vast majority of skydiving deaths are caused by human error.

“We've really worked hard to lower the fatality count and the fatality rate in our sport,” Scott said.

USPA says there were only 13 skydiving deaths across the country in 2018, an all-time low for the industry. One death was from Mile-Hi Skydiving. So far in 2019, USPA says there have been six skydiving deaths across the country, and all have been experienced skydivers. Three of those six jumped at Mile-Hi.

“We do tend to see a higher rate of accidents at the busier locations,” Scott said. He adds Mile-Hi Skydiving is one of the top 20 busiest operations nationwide.

The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating the latest death. Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesperson, says the agency will inspect parachute rigging and whether the parachute was packed properly by a certified parachute rigger.

“The FAA regulates aviation safety, including the aircraft and pilot and the locations where skydiving can take place, but we do not regulate the jumping activity," Kenitzer said.

The USPA will be reviewing what happened as well to see if there is a common thread between the deaths.

In a statement to the Problem Solvers, the lawyer for Mile-Hi Skydiving, Bryan Biesterfeld, said the latest death was a tragic accident.

“Mile-Hi Skydiving Center prides itself on the steps we take to ensure the highest levels of safety for every skydiver,” Biesterfeld said in the statement. “Skydiving is a challenge-by-choice sport, and as skydivers progress, they often challenge themselves with new canopy skills, different types of suits, and different styles of flying.  We are fortunate to have some of the best coaches available to those seeking to expand their abilities as they learn new and more complex disciplines.  In conjunction with industry experts, we’ve developed and enforce guidelines, policies, and practices that promote the highest degrees of safety for both beginning skydivers and those pushing their personal envelope.  However, as with any sport, adherence to those safety standards is ultimately the responsibility of the individual skydiver.”

Biesterfeld goes on to say “this has been a difficult year, and we have had an unusually high number of incidents,” and that Mile-Hi has one of the best safety records in skydiving nationwide.

The Problem Solvers have submitted a request to see all FAA inspections and the number of citations for incidents at Mile-Hi skydiving over the past 10 years, and will update this story once we have that information.

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