Parachute likely not packed correctly prior to tandem skydiver's death, investigation finds

A new report into the death of a US tourist who was tandem skydiving in Queenstown has found several factors led to the fatal crash.

Tyler Nii. Source:

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has released detailed findings into the January 2018 incident involving company NZONE.

Tyler Nii, 27, from California, was skydiving with a tandem master when both the main and reserve parachutes malfunctioned.

Spinning fast, the pair ended up in Lake Wakatipu.

TAIC’s chief investigator of accidents, Harald Hendel, said: "The commission found the main chute’s uneven opening and twisted lines — a hazard that parachutists anticipate and practice for — was likely due to its packing."

The tandem master wasn’t wearing a lifejacket but survived the ordeal.

Nii was wearing a lifejacket, but it did not inflate enough to support him.

After extensive searches, his body was never recovered.

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A new report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission has identified three issues the industry needs to look at. Source: 1 NEWS

"The commission never recovered the rider’s lifejacket and couldn’t conclusively determine why it only partially inflated. But we did identify a risk that lifejackets certified for parachuting have been unsuitable for parachuting conditions."

TAIC said the company’s "water emergency response plan did not have due regard for the anticipated time that people can survive in cold water", increasing the likelihood "that rescuers would arrive too late to save anyone".

Now, the transport accident investigation watchdog is calling for changes for all parachute users.

"To all parachutists, we’re saying accidental landings in water are possible and riskier than you might think, so it’s vital that you practise doing it," Hendel said.

It is also calling on agencies including the Ministry of Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority and the country’s two parachute recreation organisations to improve rules to mitigate the unintended water landings.

A NZONE spokesperson told 1 NEWS in a statement that it "acknowledges the findings" and "has full confidence in its operational and safety procedures".

"The company would like to once again like to extend its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyler Nii."