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Observers. Are they worth it?

The widow of a Brooklyn man killed last year in an unlikely airplane accident has filed a lawsuit claiming that negligence by a skydiving company and pilot caused her husband’s death.

From the Des Moines Register [box] The widow of a Brooklyn man killed last year in an unlikely airplane accident has filed a lawsuit claiming that negligence by a skydiving company and pilot caused her husband’s death.

Wayne Kidrowski, 56, fell to his death on Aug. 16 after he was sucked out of an open door of an airplane owned by Brooklyn-based Skydive Iowa. The parachute he was told to wear deployed in the plane without warning, according to the lawsuit.

Kidrowski’s parachute got caught on the plane’s tail before he fell 600 to 700 feet to the ground, the lawsuit said.

Attorneys for Kidrowski’s wife, who was named administrator of his estate, believe the plane’s pilot and owners weren’t in compliance with federal safety regulations, according to the lawsuit sent to Poweshiek County on Tuesday. The lawsuit names Skydive Iowa and its owner, Bruce Kennedy, as well as the pilot, Andrew Arthur, as plaintiffs.

Kennedy declined to speak with a reporter, citing the litigation. Kennedy said the skydiving business remains open. Arthur could not be reached for comment.

During the August flight, Kidrowski had agreed to ride with Arthur in the Cessna 206 from Brooklyn to the Grinnell Regional Airport so that the airplane could undergo maintenance, according to the lawsuit. The plane had no seat for Kidrowski with a safety belt, because all seats except for the pilot’s had been removed, the lawsuit said.

An employee of the skydiving company who is also named in the lawsuit, Brent Rhomberg, gave Kidrowski a parachute to wear during the flight even though Kidrowski had no intention of skydiving, according to the lawsuit. Rhomberg acted negligently in requiring the parachute, the lawsuit said.

“Wayne Kidrowski would not have been pulled from the aircraft and killed if he had not been required to wear a parachute,” the lawsuit said.

The plane’s right-side door had been removed, and a “roll-up style door” on the airplane was not used during the flight, leaving the door open, according to the lawsuit.

Under federal law, planes can be flown without doors specifically for skydiving, the lawsuit said.

Further, the pilot failed to provide a pre-flight briefing, which could have included safety equipment information, the lawsuit said.

Kidrowski’s parachute deployed when the plane was flying at an altitude of more than 1,000 feet, according to the lawsuit. The wind dragged the parachute and Kidrowski out of the plane, and then the parachute got caught on the plane’s tail, the lawsuit said.

The parachute, stuck on the tail, caused the plane to stall and descend about 300 feet, according to the lawsuit. When Arthur got control of the aircraft again, Kidrowski’s parachute came off the tail, and the pilot believed Kidrowski “had control” of the parachute, the lawsuit said.

Kidrowski was a father of two adult daughters and had two granddaughters and worked at the Brooklyn Elevator, his widow, Cindy Kidrowski, confirmed for The Des Moines Register through an attorney.

The lawsuit asks for damages for “loss of spousal support” as well as “loss of enjoyment of life” and “pre-impact terror.” The lawsuit also asks for punitive damages, levied to punish plaintiffs for negligent or reckless behavior.

An average of 21 people die each year in skydiving accidents, said Jim Crouch, director of safety and training for the United States Parachute Association. Such deaths are commonly caused by human error, such as opening a parachute once a skydiver is too low to the ground, or by two divers colliding mid-air, he said.

Crouch said the association was aware of Kidrowski’s death, but did not include the death in its count because he wasn’t on a skydiving flight. Crouch declined to comment on the specific actions leading to Kidrowski’s death, but said all skydive operators are responsible for ensuring they are complying with all laws and Federal Aviation Administration regulations. [/box]   Be aware.  Be advised. Are people who have not gone through a first jump course worth taking for a ride?  Do they really know their own equipment?  Know how to ingress and egress?

4 replies on “Observers. Are they worth it?”

I am very glad you brought this up. Observers. Are they worth it? Yes and no. For me, it is VERY aircraft specific. Observers in a 182 or any Cessna? Hell no! In a Twin Otter, with a very usable co-pilot seat? Yes. In a King Air/Caravan/Pac without a observer seat? Depends. No matter what, when an observer pays for a ride, I require that manifest asks my permission first. Why? Depending on my work load, it will affect my answer. If we are VERY busy, and I am hot, tired, hungry etc. I would be less inclined to babysit an observer in the middle of a long stretch of loads. The persons personality. I require manifest to allow me to meet and chat with the person first. Are they of sound mind? Are they going to be easily controlled if the need arises? Are they strong and large and would I have to wrestle them if they got out of control? Are they in good health? I must be able to observe them from a distance for a time before they know who I am so I can see their attitude and demeanor before I will agree to putting a bailout rig on them and take them on a ride with me. Are they drunk? Etc. 95 times out of 100, I have no issues with taking the person for a ride after a 3 minute size up and a 1 minute conversation. But I have turned down riders for various reasons. I really enjoy taking observers, but I must feel comfortable knowing that they won’t get out of hand and endanger my life as well as their own.

ditto. Haven’t had any real concerns hauling the occasional whuffos in larger jump a/c when as Neal says if it’s the right conditions usually in the first few loads of the day or sunset load.

Was the deceased required to sign a waiver before being allowed in the aircraft? In most cases, a waiver (of liability) will protect the operator from “ordinary” negligence. This Something that could not readily be foreseen but could be a normal part of the risk of the normal operations of a DZ. The plaintiff’s will then have to show that the pilot or other personnel committed “gross negligence” which is much akin to reckless behavior and a much greater burden of proof. Just another reason to demand waivers.

Besides the issues already brought, I am wondering if any DZ has had an FAA inspector tell them that carrying a non-skydiver in a jump plane is a sight-seeing ride which requires the PIC to be under a drug testing program. It is required for sight-seeing rides even though it is conducted under pt 91. I have always told any DZ operator I have flown for to make sure that the observer/passenger is referred to as an observer on an observation ride, not as a passenger on a joy ride.

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