1 dead after skydiving accident in Madera, police investigating

Monday, November 9, 2015
1 dead after skydiving accident in Madera, police investigating
Witnesses say first chute, pictured here, landed in trees far away from his body. (Photo courtesy of Rafaela Ruiz)

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Witnesses attending a local festival recount the horrifying sight, as a parachutist falls to the ground. Authorities say a 65-year-old man died while skydiving in Madera Saturday afternoon.

In a split second, a family festival became the scene of an accident. "Everyone was just pointing at the sky and I looked to see someone falling in a parachute," said Aaron Starr.

Authorities said 65-year-old David Gilbert was taking part in an air show and was trying to land at a Madera airport. "The victim's chute was tangled. Attempts were made to disrupt the tangling of the chute and they appeared to be unsuccessful," said Sergeant Felix Gonzalez of the Madera Police Department.

Hundreds of feet away, video shows the victims first chute landed among a row of trees far away from his body. "Out of the corner of our eye we saw a loose parachute. And it flying all by itself like a deflated balloon going down by itself," said witness Alex Salazar.

The skydiver himself, fell right next to Alex Salazar's truck. Salazar said was in that very spot just minutes before the crash.

"It sounded like a car hit something and turn around and sure enough it was the gentleman. Or what we know now as the gentleman who had fallen right here between the cars," said Salazar.

The Federal Aviation Administration is now involved in this investigation to find out how exactly the tragedy could've happened.

Authorities identified the victim as David Gilbert, 65 years old, of Madera. Friends say he was an experienced skydiver and a loving husband and father.

Fresno State's all-female professional skydiving team, the Bulldog Blitz, posted a message on its Facebook page. It said, "Our community lost a member of our dropzone family in a tragic accident yesterday. We all know the risk involved with our sport, but don't believe it would ever be one of ours. He was our ground crew, part of our team, and family."

It goes on to say, "This will be a time of grief and mourning for our team, family, and community."