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No charges in Winnebago County skydiving death

6:47 PM, Oct. 23, 2013  |  Comments
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A skydiver's death this summer happened because of poor weather conditions and communication problems, according to Winnebago County sheriff's office. Prosecutors have declined to file any criminal charges.

Tandem instructor Paul Olsen and his student jumped from a plane July 9 as a storm approached. They were blown off course and landed in Lake Butte des Morts, where the student was able to swim to shore but Olsen drowned.

The owner of Skydive Adventure Inc., William Hasenfus, told authorities he tried to prevent the jump. He said he radioed Olsen's pilot "about 10 times" telling him to abort. The pilot said no communications reached him until Olsen and the tandem student had already jumped from the plane, the Oshkosh Northwestern Media reported.

The case was referred to district attorney Christian Gossett, who did not file charges. He said the incident had to be reviewed according to the decisions each person made given the information they had at that time.

"There were a lot of things that could have prevented the death, but you can't point the finger at one person and say 'You caused the death,'" Gossett said.

The tandem student, Oscar Garcia, had gone to Skydive Adventure with eight friends and family members. The plane took off about 11:30 a.m. as dark clouds approached.

The pilot, Aaron Fiss, said he was having trouble communicating by radio with Hasenfus, who was on the ground. Fiss said he was receiving weather updates from air traffic controllers and, although he could see storms approaching, he felt there was a safe enough window to allow the skydivers to jump.

Garcia said it was raining when he and Olsen, 55, jumped. As they fell the rain began pelting them painfully, and they ended up landing in the lake.

"The last time I saw the instructor he was swimming," Garcia told deputies. "He was ahead of me and to the right of me. It didn't look like he was having problems swimming and when we started swimming he was swimming a lot faster than me."

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