Following yet another fatal incident at the Lodi Skydiving Center, owner Bill Dause has been ordered to pay $40 million to the family of 18-year-old Tyler Turner, who died at the center in 2016.
The monumental lawsuit may be the final blow to the embattled skydiving center, which has seen 21 deaths over the years.
The fatal incident occurred on August 6, 2016, when Turner joined instructor Yong Kwan, 25, to skydive during a birthday celebration. The tandem’s chute failed to deploy, sending both to a fatal collision with the nearby vineyard from 13,000 feet. According to the United States Parachute Association, Kwan did not hold the proper certification. Turner’s mother, Francine Salazar, said the instructor told the jumpers they didn’t need to finish watching the safety video shown before the jump.
“Before he got on the plane, he knelt down and prayed, made his peace with God, and then turned around and gave me a great big, huge hug,” Salazar told the Merced Sun Star in 2016. “He said, ‘I love you, Mom,’ and then he got on the plane.”
The lawsuit specifically targeted Dause with the purpose of seeing the self proclaimed skydiving legend move on from the skydiving business.
“We are hoping this will allow us to get this place closed or be sold to a responsible owner who can operate it safely,” said the Turner family attorney Paul Van Der Walde.
The organization has been accused of lax training and has seen 17 deaths since 2000, and 5 skydivers who have learned to skydive at the school have died in the past three years. Authorities have investigated all of the incidents and found no violations.
There was also the incident of the plane crashing near the facility full of 17 skydivers and one pilot, none of which received life-threatening injuries. Here is a video of the plane crash: