An experienced skydiver died Thursday after her parachute did not open in what is being considered a possible suicide.
The woman, believed to be in her 30s, landed in a vineyard just east of Lower Sacramento Road, south of Jahant Road. She was pronounced dead at the scene, where San Joaquin County Sheriff/Coroner's investigators were called to investigate.
Her name was not released, pending notification of next of kin, but she appears to be visiting from Belgium, said Deputy Les Garcia, a sheriff-coroner spokesman.
The skydiver was using her own parachute equipment, Garcia said. She had jumped from a plane that took off from the Lodi Parachute Center, based just west of Highway 99.
The woman jumped from a plane around 9:30 a.m. at 13,000 feet above the ground, said parachute center owner Bill Dause.
"From the time she left the airplane until somewhere in between, her parachute container came off," he said.
The whole parachute container — including the chute and harnesses — was found several hundred feet south of where the woman landed, Dause said.
The chest strap was unfastened and the leg straps were fully opened, Dause said. Those straps are fastened before jumpers enter an airplane, and he said none of the 20 people on the plane reported seeing her straps improperly fastened.
Employees and fellow jumpers began searching for the woman after she did not land at the jump center just west of Highway 99, but it took some time to find her remains among the vines, Dause said.
Employees and searchers, who were clearly traumatized, left the area quickly once the woman was pronounced dead. A man identified as her boyfriend stayed at the scene longer with deputies. All declined to comment.
Dause described the woman as an "extremely experienced" jumper who had come to Lodi about a month ago. She also spent time jumping there last summer.
The parachute center attracts people from across the country; diehard skydivers typically save up money and vacation time, then camp out at parachute centers and spend their time skydiving.
The incident is not the first fatality at the Lodi jump center. The most recent one occurred in September, when two experienced jumpers became entangled while practicing mid-air formations for a national competition.
The Federal Aviation Administration will also investigate Thursday's death. They will send inspectors to look at the woman's parachute and gear, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.