Eighteen-year-old Girl Dies on Her Birthday As Skydiving Parachute Fails to Open, Company Blames Human Error

parachute teenager birthday accident dies Mexico
This file photo shows Nepali soldiers parachuting during rehearsals for the upcoming Army Day in Kathmandu, Nepal on March 1, 2019. PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images

A teenage girl and her parachute instructor have died after their canopy failed to open during a skydive in Mexico.

The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon close to Lake Tequesquitengo, located in central Morelos state around 60 miles south of Mexico City. According to El Heraldo de México, the pair had flown from the nearby Albatros Aviation Club.

Vanessa Ivonne Meléndez Cárdenas took the jump to celebrate her 18th birthday, the Daily Mail reported, leaping from 1,300 feet above Lake Tequesquitengo—an area famous for its parachute activities.

She was strapped to her instructor—identified by local media as Mauricio Gutiérrez Castillo, 34—who the Mail said had recorded more than 4,500 parachute jumps. He was also killed in the accident.

According to El Heraldo, the main parachute failed to open. The reserve did not function properly as it opened less than 1,300 feet above the ground, leaving the pair helpless and plummeting earthwards at more than 100 mph.

The incident was caught on video by bystanders on the ground filming descending parachutists. As four other pairs land normally, another can be seen falling at speed with the parachute above them not properly deployed. The Albatros club said the back-up canopy was opened at an altitude at which it "was impossible for the parachute to respond," according to the Mail, meaning the pair could not be saved.

Emergency personnel later discovered both bodies in a grass field close to a major highway. They were taken away by the Morelos Prosecutor's Office and an investigation has been opened to establish the cause of the tragedy.

Jorge Gaitán, the director of the Albatros club, said the company's equipment was not to blame. He told Milenio he believes the failure of the two parachutes was caused by operator error. "The parachute was working well," he explained. "Everything seems to indicate that [the problem] was the release of the parachute. That ultimately does not happen by accident: it is caused by a human."

"It wasn't equipment failure or anything like that," he said. "It surely had to do with someone who was on that flight, who manipulated and activated the release mechanism." The director also noted that witnesses saw the parachutists fall for at least two minutes, and that the fatal mishap appears to have occurred in the very final portion of the descent.

However, Gaitán said the investigation was ongoing and admitted that the company "still do not know what happened."