A 62-year-old veteran skydiver who made it into the "Guinness Book of World Records" for taking part in the largest aerial formation died when he got tangled in his parachute during a dive Saturday over Lake Elsinore in Southern California.
Ken Oka, of Mira Loma, Calif., was performing a maneuver with a group of skydivers on Saturday afternoon when he got ensnared in the chute
, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Saturday's jump started with 17 skydivers, but Oka became tangled with five others, witnesses told KTLA-TV. The other divers managed to break free and regain control. Oka's backup chute deployed but he remained caught in his original chute and never regained control enough to slow down, witnesses said.
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Oka landed in the 19000 block of Sweetwood Lane and was pronounced dead at a hospital, the department said.
“He had broken pretty much everything, but he would get back up and just keep on going,” Oka’s girlfriend and life partner Lynette Collins said. "He died doing what he really loved doing. I can't be sad for that."
Collins said skydiving was Oka's passion and despite a number of previous hard falls, he was never deterred to get back into the sky. Oka had more than 5,000 jumps under his belt. He joined a group of divers to make the "Guinness Book of World Records" for taking part in the largest aerial group formation in 2003.
Oka left instructions that if he died, he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread across the sky for one last jump, his family said.
Police said the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an independent investigation.
The United States Parachute Association reported 19 skydiving deaths from an estimated 3.1 million jumps in 2012.
Skydiving fatalities have been nearly cut in half since the 1970s.
In the 1970s, the sport averaged 42.5 skydiving fatalities per year. Over the past three years, the annual average has declined to 21.7 fatalities.
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