Eyewitnesses describe fatal skydiving incident in Middletown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

caption arrowCaption
A Mason man died Sunday afternoon while sky diving at Middletown Airport.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

UPDATE @ 12:20 p.m. (Aug. 23)

A fellow skydiver said he knew the Mason man who died in a skydiving incident Sunday was in trouble when his parachute spun more than three times before his fatal landing.

John Donnelly, a skydiver from Minneapolis, Minn., told Middletown police Sunday that as they came down and opened their parachutes, Jeff Rives, 47, of Mason, went into a spin and spun approximately three times.

Donnelly said he thought Rives was trying to decrease altitude. But as Rives spun more than three times, he realized Rives was in trouble and appeared to be free falling, according to the police report obtained by this news outlet.

Donnelly said he began to follow Rives as he was descending at a high rate of speed. He said he followed Rives to an area near 1350 Hook Drive on the west side of the airport and observed Rives releasing his main parachute “that was obviously tangled” and then pull his reserve parachute.

The report said that Donnelly “felt it was too late, which caused the hard landing and trauma” to Rives.

Fire crews had to cut gates to get into an industrial site at the Hook Drive address to reach Rives, who had landed on a gravel drive next to the building.

Clayton Peterson, of Cadiz, Ky., told police he was in the observation area at the Start Skydiving office, 1707 Run Way, when he observed Rives during the jump.

Peterson told police he saw Rives spin three times and at first thought he was trying to decrease altitude. He said he saw Rives descending too fast toward the ground.

Police said the main parachute was found near a canine training area just west of the runway.

Later in the day, emergency crews responded back to the airport as a Dayton skydiver had complications with the deployment of his parachute and had a hard fall in a grass area along the airport runway.

Matt Baird told medics that he was tangled in a cut-away parachute and landed on his right side, according to the police report.

He was taken to Atrium Medical Center for further evaluation.

UPDATE @ 4:16 p.m. (Aug. 22)

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the death of a skydiver Sunday at the Middletown Regional Airport.

Elizabeth Cory, FAA spokeswoman at the Great Lakes office in Chicago, said the incident remains “an open investigation.”

Cory said the areas being investigated include the packing of the main parachute; the packing of the reserve parachute; if the rules of flight were being followed; if the pilot was properly licensed; and if the plane was properly licensed and maintained.

“The investigation could take several weeks to several months, which is standard,” she said.

No other information was available from the FAA.

UPDATE 1:00 p.m. (Aug. 22):

The Butler County Coroner’s Office has released the identity of the man killed in a skydiving accident Sunday morning.

Jeffrey Rives, 47, of Mason, died from the injuries he sustained during the accident and his cause of death is listed as pending, according to the coroner’s office.

UPDATE @ 1:39 p.m.

A sky diver from Mason died Sunday morning at Middletown Airport when he deployed his chute too late, says the owner of a sky diving company.

John Hart II, co-owner of the Drop Zone, said the 47-year-old man’s identity has not been released pending notification of his family.

The Mason man, who Hart said had completed 95 previous skydiving jumps, died on impact at approximately 11 a.m.

Hart said the main deployed his chute under the recommended altitude limit of 3,500 feet.

“This wasn’t because of a problem. Maybe he lost altitude awareness. He did use his reserve chute but it deployed too late,” said Hart.

“It’s unfortunate but is was completely avoidable,” said Hart.

“This was not a reflection of a safety problem but a reflection on not making good decisions,” said Hart.

Officials from the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the death.


One person has died from a skydiving accident at the Start Skydiving facility in Middletown, the Ohio Highway Patrol has confirmed.

The fatal incident was reported at approximately 11 a.m., according to the OHP dispatcher.

More details are expected to be released this afternoon.