Marine from Burlington killed in Calif skydiving accident

Caleb Medley dies after parachute fails

PERRIS, Calif. - A Marine from Camp Pendleton who was killed in a skydiving accident in Riverside County has been identified as a Colorado man.

Riverside County Coroner's officials on Wednesday identified the victim as 26-year-old Caleb Medley of Burlington, Colo.

Fire officials say they received a call of a skydiver down shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday. When they arrived near the Perris Valley Airport, they found a man had died.

Riverside County sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Lisa McConnell says the man was among a group of Marines who were conducting a military training exercise. Medley's parachute apparently failed to deploy properly and he fell into a storage yard, dying instantly.

McConnell couldn't say how many other Marines were involved or if there were problems with the victim's parachute.

Perris is a popular skydiving area about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Buzz Fink is president of SkyDive San Diego and works with both civilian and military jumpers.

"You have to go through an approved military freefall course to be freefall certified and you have to do a certain number of jumps every year or six months or three months in order to stay qualified and current," he said.

That includes classroom and practical training, featuring safety checks and double-checks.

There are also fail-safes, such as a reserve chute to back up the main one.

Retired Rear Adm. George Worthington is well experienced, having commanded SEAL Team One years ago. He has more than 1,600 jumps to his credit.

Worthington told 10News.com, "Normally during training, SEALs open at 5,000 feet and if something happens -- the chute malfunctions -- they go into emergency procedures, which is to release the bad parachute and pull your reserve. Most of it's automatically activated."

Fink said it is not unusual to see jump training done off-base.

"They do jump at Camp Pendleton and they jump at other military bases also but lately, they've been having a hard time in the military getting aircraft available for them to do their jumping, so a lot of times, they will contract with a civilian airplane or civilian skydiving schools to facilitate their needs."

10News learned that 15 people have died in skydiving accidents at that airport since 2000.

Although they did not return 10News' calls, Fink says he has trust in Perris Valley Skydiving.

"So much so that I would never have an issue with my kids jumping at that drop zone," he said. "It's a very well-run facility but it's skydiving and sometimes things do happen."

The FAA does not investigate military skydiving accidents. Though the plane was a civilian plane, the exercise was military and the FAA saw no issues with the operation of that plane.

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