Owner addresses latest death at Lodi Parachute Center

Lodi Parachute Center owner Bill Dause addresses the media on Monday, two days after a woman died in a skydiving accident at the center.

ACAMPO — Bill Dause, owner of the Lodi Parachute Center, said the woman who died in a skydiving accident Saturday afternoon was an experienced jumper who had only recently returned to the sport.

“She started jumping years ago,” Dause said Monday. “I’m not sure exactly when. She got married, had a couple kids and had been out of the sport for many years, and got back into it a couple years ago.”

The San Joaquin County Coroner and Medical Examiner’s Office identified the woman as 57-year-old Sabrina Call of Watsonville Monday morning.

She plummeted to the Highway 99 frontage road at about 2:15 p.m. Saturday after both her parachutes became entangled, Dause said. She had taken about 2,000 jumps in her lifetime, he said.

“No one saw exactly what happened until about the last couple hundred feet,” he said. “She had two parachutes out, they entangled with each other and weren’t fully inflated, and pointed toward the ground in a very rapid speed.”

Dause said he did not really know Call, but said she probably made as many as 15 jumps at the center in the last year.

“I knew her from years and years ago,” he said. “But that was so long ago I have no real recollection (of her). Skydiving is a small sport, a small group of people, and most of the people know everybody.”

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office were conducting investigations into Call’s death.

Dause said he and his staff were also looking into the accident, but did not know whether Call packed her own parachute.

Call’s death comes exactly one month after Dause was ordered to pay $40 million to a Merced County family whose 18-year-old son died in a tandem jump in 2016.

Los Banos resident Tyler Turner was celebrating his 18th birthday when he and his tandem instructor Yong Kwon plummeted to the ground.

According to an investigation, the pair’s chutes failed and twisted in the wind rather than inflate. The investigation found that Kwon did not have the proper required training or certification to make the jump.

After Call’s death, there have been 21 deaths at the parachute center since it opened in 1981, according to records.

Dause said he’d probably be liable for Call’s death if someone filed a lawsuit, adding he is not insured, and there is no insurance for skydiving.

“Yes we’ve had our share of fatalities, and probably more than some of the smaller dropzones, by a ways,” he said. “But none of them have been the same. They’ve all be totally different. We’re sad, but it’s just like a car wreck. You go on.”

According to the United States Parachute Center, it recorded 15 fatal accidents out of about 3.3 million jumps in 2019. In addition, there were a reported 2,522 injuries requiring a medical facility, the agency said.

The sport averaged 42.5 fatalities a year in the 1970s, the agency said. That dropped to 34.1 in the 1980s, 32.3 in the 1990s and to 25.8 in the first decade of the century.

Over the past 10 years, the annual average has decreased to 20.7 deaths, according to USPA.

When asked why the center remains open after nearly two dozen deaths over the last three decades, Dause said it was difficult to answer.

“I enjoy skydiving,” he said. “To be a skydiver, you need an A-type personality, and A-type personalities don’t really give up.”

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