On a cloudy July Monday, Gord Gauvin walks an investigator from WorkSafeBC through a landing field in Nanoose Bay.
It’s the same field where Gauvin’s close friend, James Smith, died skydiving hours earlier.
“I was the first to get to him,” said Gord Gauvin, owner of Skydive Vancouver Island. “He’s been a very close personal friend for seven years and like everybody in the industry we’re very close.”
It happened at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night, in Skydive Vancouver Island‘s Nanoose Bay landing field. Gauvin and 15 other skydivers and instructors watched on as a textbook landing went catastrophically wrong.
“He was a part of our family and we’re gonna miss him a lot,” Gauvin said.
The 34-year-old skydiving instructor from Victoria, who CHEK News has learned, was James Smith, a beloved husband and father of two. Smith had completed 1,000 jumps so far, and was finishing up his jump with a highly technical manoeuvre called swooping.
“He was a very experienced skydiver,” explained Gauvin. “He was performing a high-performance manoeuvre, it’s called swooping. He’d done it a couple hundred times before. No incidents whatsoever.”
This time, though, the manoeuvre went horribly wrong. He said Smith’s turn was too low and he hit the ground at speeds of over 50 km/h.
“Unfortunately, yesterday his turn got too low and he impacted the ground at a high rate of speed. Probably about 35-40 miles an hour and succumbed to his injuries,” Gauvin.
The BC Coroners Service and WorkSafeBC is investigating in an effort to determine exactly what happened and how exactly the passionate skydiver and father of two died.
Smith’s death is being felt in the tight-knit skydiving community.
“It’s something he was passionate about,” said Gauvin. “It’s something he absolutely loved.”