Putney skydiver died after becoming entangled with fellow jumper, inquest told
15:45 21 February 2013
A skydiver involved in a mid-air collision that claimed the life of a Putney wine merchant became entangled when his knees hit his fellow diver’s canopy, an inquest heard today.
Matt Le Berre shouted “I’ve killed him” as he lay injured after the incident, which killed Patrick Sandeman after a jump at Sibson Aerodrome, near Peterborough on September 22.
The collision took place on the approach to the landing zone, an inquest at Lawrence Court, Huntingdon, heard today.
As fellow skydivers and paramedics fought to save Mr Sandeman’s life, Mr Le Berre was heard screaming in pain.
Jump-master Michael Wilson-Roberts rushed to help both men within seconds of them hitting the ground.
He said: “Matt was shouting ‘It’s my fault, my friend, my friend, I’ve killed him’. He was also muttering in French.
“I can’t say he was completely lucid. He was in a bad way and may not have been aware what he was saying but I can’t deny what I heard.”
Mr Sandeman, of Montolieu Gardens, was pronounced dead at the scene and had suffered injuries to his head, ribs and pelvis.
The 53-year-old, who had completed 677 previous jumps, was a partner in Lea & Sandeman, the fine wine merchants and was described after his death as “a total ornament to the British wine trade”.
The inquest heard that Mr Le Berre and Mr Sandeman had jumped from the same plane.
The airfield was busy that day and there was little wind.
Their jumps were staggered for safety reasons with Mr Le Berre jumping as part of the first group of nine and Mr Sandeman part of a second group of four.
Both left the plane at about 14,000ft, reaching speeds of up to 200mph in freefall before deploying their parachutes between 5,000ft and 2,500ft.
Giving evidence, Mr Le Berre, who had completed 488 jumps, said he was slowing after performing an advanced “swooping” manoeuvre, involving a sudden turn and increase in speed, when he saw Mr Sandeman below him.
The 28-year-old originally from France but now living in London, said he remembered pulling on his breaks but could not prevent his knees hitting Mr Sandeman’s canopy and tangling their parachute lines.
Mr Wilson-Roberts told the inquest that swooping turns created unpredictable landing patterns and made it more difficult for skydivers to predict one another’s movements.
He was part of Mr Sandeman’s group and captured a video of the jump using a head camera.
It showed the early stages of the jump unfolding uneventfully before the camera lost sight of Mr Sandeman.
Mr Sandeman’s wife and son left the inquest as this was played.
Witnesses gave conflicting accounts as to which man collided with the other.
But Tony Butler, technical officer for the British Parachute Association, who conducted an investigation, said he was now convinced that it was Mr Sandeman who collided with Mr Le Berre.
Deputy coroner Belinda Cheney recorded a verdict of accidental death and added that it was “more likely than not” that it was Mr Sandeman who collided with Mr Le Berre.
She said: “This was not a straightforward incident, and there has been quite a lot of inconsistency in the evidence.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever going to know what direction Mr Sandeman was coming from and whether he did anything wrong.”
She added it was clear Mr Sandeman was clearly an “active and successful man”.
Outside the inquest, solicitor Dominic Fairclough read a statement on behalf of Mr Sandeman’s family.
He said: “Patrick was an incredibly loving husband and father who lived life to the full.
“The only positive outcome from this has been Mr Le Berre’s recovery.”