Georgia Teen's Skydiving Death Begs the Question, Is Skydiving Really Safe?

An 18-year old high school graduate from Georgia died on Sunday in a tandem skydiving accident. While skydiving has long been an item to for many thrill-seekers to check off their bucket lists, the teen and instructor's deaths might bring skydiving's safety into question.

Jeanna Renee Triplicata and her instructor Nick Esposito both died when they crashed into Upson Field. As previously reported, Skydive Atlanta, the company that the teen booked her jump with, explained what went wrong. "After an uneventful freefall, a parachute malfunction occurred resulting in the passing away of both instructor and student. Eyewitnesses confirm that the main parachute was deployed," the company said in a statement. Skydive Atlanta also said that the authorities and FAA were investigating the incident.

While the teen and instructor's deaths might make some rethink the activity, skydiving is still safe overall; the accident in Georgia stands out as an oddity for the sport.

According to the United States Parachute Association (USPA), skydiving safety has continued to improve, practically cutting the number of fatalities in half in the past 20 years. In 2000, there were 32 reported deaths out of 2.7 million jumps, which equates to 1.19 fatalities per 100,000 jumps.

In 2019, there were 15 deaths out of 3.3 million jumps, which equates to 0.45 fatalities per 100,000 jumps. The previous year, in 2018, there slightly fewer deaths—13, out of 3.3 million jumps.

Despite the danger that naturally comes with jumping out of a plane, the USPA says that the activity keeps getting safer. "Skydiving involves inherent risks, but most skydiving accidents result from human error. With proper preparation and good judgment, skydivers can minimize those risks," the organization says on its website. "Thanks to safer equipment, better training and the staffs at more than 220 USPA-affiliated skydiving centers across the country, skydiving continues to become safer."

A 2019 story from Popular Mechanics explained some of the safety precautions that skydivers take when making the jump. One of the key safety measures is an extra parachute that's packed by an FAA rigger. Tandem jumpers are equipped with an automatic activation device that will deploy the back-up parachute, should you reach a certain altitude at free-fall speed.

Drop zones are also marked on FAA aviation maps. Pilots keep air traffic control in the loop when skydivers are planning to jump. Pilots inform air traffic control about two minutes before people take the leap and as they're jumping out of the plane.

Newsweek reached out to Skydiving.com and the USPA for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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Skydivers descend toward the field during the pre-game show before a preseason NFL game between the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 31, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. A Georgia teen and skydiving instructor died in a fatal accident on Sunday. Getty/Dustin Bradford