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Mon, Nov 12, 2007

Skydiver Found -- Days After Fatal Jump

Main Chute Failed, Reserve Deployed Too Low, FAA Investigating

A Skydive Spaceland skydiver was found dead on Friday, November 9, two days after he was apparently killed due to a parachute that failed to deploy, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Scott Bell made the last jump of the day Wednesday but wasn't noticed as missing because he is the person who checks people in before they jump and accounts for them after they jump, said Houston attorney Lee McMillian, the legal adviser for Skydive Spaceland in Rosharon, Texas.

When employees noticed that he didn't return to the hangar Wednesday night, people assumed he had simply walked home. Bell who was 35-years-old, lived in a trailer on the facility's property.

When Bell didn't show for a staff meeting Thursday morning, other employees were concerned but thought he had gone to a girlfriend's house and simply missed the meeting, according to McMillian.

On Friday, a pilot noticed a parachute in tall grass about 200 yards beyond the facility's drop zone, McMillian said. A Brazoria County deputy and employees of the facility found the body in an area south of the zone. Preliminary indications are that Bell's main parachute failed and he deployed his reserve parachute too late, McMillian said, adding that the incident is being treated as an accident.

Spokesman Roland Herwig with the Federal Aviation Administration said they are investigating the fatal incident. The FAA regulates both the equipment and procedures of skydiving establishments, requiring that the reserve parachute be inspected and repacked every 120 days by an FAA-certified parachute rigger.

Herwig was unsure when the parachutes at Skydive Spaceland were last inspected but McMillian said Bell's equipment was last inspected in August.

Bell's death is the first fatality at the facility, which opened in 1999, McMillian said. McMillian himself a pilot and skydiver, added, It's not uncommon for a skydiver to jump and land in front of his home. Bell, who worked at the company a short time, was considered very popular, McMillian said. He described Bell as an experienced jumper, with 109 jumps under his belt.

"Everybody out here is pretty upset," said McMillian. Robbins said Bell usually jumped about three to four times a month.

FMI: www.FAA.gov, http://www.skydivespaceland.com/

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