A San Diego man was one of two skydivers killed when they collided during a dive in Riverside County Thursday.
Christopher David Stasky, 42, of San Diego crashed alongside Patrick James McGowan II, 42, of Menifee near the Perris Valley Airport around 3:30 p.m.
"We're in shock and disbelief. Chris was such a great guy. He was well liked by everybody," said friend and employer Buzz Fink.
Although their parachutes opened properly, at about 200 to 300 feet above the ground, their canopies collided, said Cal Fire-Riverside County Capt. Mike Smith.
Civilians attempted CPR. Paramedics took over upon arrival, but by 4 p.m. authorities declared the men dead.
Fink is the president of Tactical Air Operations, Inc. in Jamul, where Stasky worked for the past 6 years. He says he is at a loss to explain how such an experienced skydiver could have been involved in a fatal accident.
Fink says Stasky worked with both civilian and military personnel as a tandem instructor, accelerated free fall instructor and videographer.
"He loved people, loved the sport, and just loved to live the skydiving life," said Fink.
Fink says he has no idea what happened leading up to Thursday's fatal accident, but believes neither the weather nor equipment had anything to do with the accident .
"I think it was more of a possibility of somebody not seeing the other and turning into him by mistake. Again, the investigation is ongoing, but again, for two such experienced skydivers to have a collision is unheard of in the sport," said Fink. "I just think one of them may not have seen the other and somehow got turned into him.
First-time skydiver Tom Wise met Stasky when he jumped in Jamul on March 18. As a rookie, Wise had to jump tandem.
"He says if you get nervous don't worry man, I've done this 500 times and today's no different. You're not going anywhere without me and we're not going to die today," said Wise, who works as a video editor for NBCSanDiego.
"Just kind of one of those things, you think back and no, not today but maybe in two weeks. It's just kind of heavy," Wise said.
Stasky was a rigger with Tactical Air Operations on Otay Lakes Road. The organization's website says Stasky had 9 years experience and had made 3500+ jumps.
Scott Smith, western regional director of the U.S. Parachute Association, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that McGowan had worked with Skydive Perris as an instructor for almost two decades and oversaw parachuting activities at the airport.
"He had over 17,000 jumps," Smith told the newspaper.
Smith said Stasky was helping McGowan train parachute instructors for the Canadian military.
"When you get on the ground you get a plaque where they sign their name," said Wise. "Now I have this man's name on my wall. And I can't help but think of the guy."
Editor's note: In an earlier version of the story, an image of Patrick McGowan appeared in connection with this story. We regret the error.
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