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Skydiving video lands 81-year-old on ‘Today’

FAA reviews parachute center after harrowing jump video goes viral

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Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:58 am, Thu May 31, 2012.

An 81-year old woman was featured on "Today" with Matt Lauer on Tuesday after video of her skydiving misadventure at the Lodi Parachute Center went viral.

Laverne Everett of Oakdale went skydiving at the Lodi jump center to celebrate her 80th birthday on May 21, 2011. Her cousin recently posted video of the tandem jump, which did not go as expected.

In the video, it appears that Everett's instructor forces her from the plane after she balks at taking the leap. During the descent, Everett's parachute harness loosens and slides up over her back. The instructor clutches Everett as the two make an awkward and seemingly death-defying journey to earth. The footage, posted on YouTube, has been viewed more than 500,000 times since it was posted last Thursday.

Everett suffered only a few minor bruises and holds no hard feelings against anyone at the center, just north of Lodi off Highway 99, she said.

"It didn't really scare me," she told Lauer in New York.

But Everett's sister, Jimmie Campora, watched the jump and told Lauer she was terrified.

"I thought, 'This was it,'" she said. "I was freaking out. My daughter said she's never seen me like that."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said the video has prompted a review by officials there.

The administration received the video footage through email late on Thursday, spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Gregor said an FAA safety inspector visited the parachute center Friday, and that he had spoken with the center's owner Bill Dause and some employees about the incident in question.

He added that the inspector plans to do additional interviews this week, including with Everett.

The inspector is also trying to locate the tandem parachute instructor who jumped with the woman.

Dause, reached for comment on Tuesday, said the incident is being overblown.

"It is like talking about the Romans invading Palestine," he said. "It is ancient history. All the equipment worked great and everyone was fine."

Dause is dealing with the FAA on several fronts.

The FAA has proposed two separate fines totaling about $900,000 against the Lodi Parachute Center for violations unrelated to the incident captured on video.

Gregor said the administration has referred the cases to the U.S. Attorney's Office because Dause and the FAA could not reach a settlement.

One fine, which totals $269,000, arises from a complaint in August 2011 that a DeHavilland Twin Otter was not in compliance with federal aviation regulations. The plane is often used to take parachuters up for skydive drops.

The other fine totals $664,000 and stems from an October 2010 penalty against Dause. It alleges that he failed to perform required aircraft parts replacements and failed to comply with safety directives.

The Lodi Parachute Center also faced a fatality in April when 71-year-old William Calhoun of Novato died shortly after he crash-landed in vineyards just west of the center.

Calhoun's crash and cause of death are still under investigation.

The Modesto Bee contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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