Dead skydiver not found for nine days because no checking plan in place

Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 00:00

The body of an experienced Dutch skydiver whose parachute failed to open lay undiscovered in a field for more than a week because nobody reported him missing – and the club of which he was a member has no system to check that divers return safely.

Mark van den Boogaard (48) took part in a dive at the Nationaal Paracentrum skydiving club, the largest in the Netherlands, on December 8th, but nobody noticed anything had gone wrong until rabbit-hunters discovered his body in a field near the club nine days later.

Simon Woerlee, manager of the centre, near Deventer in the east of the country, said members were “shocked”, but nobody had seen Van den Boogaard plunge to the ground and the club did not require divers to check in after a jump.

“We never check,” he said. “There’s no law and there are no regulations. Sometimes people come back to the club for a cup of tea and sometimes they just pack up afterwards and leave. They tried introducing a check-in system in America but it didn’t work.”

Van den Boogaard, who was single and self-employed, had made 120 jumps since the middle of last year, so the fact that neither of his parachutes opened puzzled police and investigators from the Royal Netherlands Aeronautical Association. A police spokesperson said last night its investigation was complete, no defects had been found in the parachutes and there was no evidence of any crime.

Amid calls for changes in safety regulations, Mr Woerlee was sceptical. “If you are forced to find out where everyone is, there can be a big drama for nothing,” he said. “You can call in emergency teams and rescue helicopters and then discover the person is sitting at home having tea with his granddad. That has happened before.”