The mother of an experienced parachutist who died after he made a split-second error of judgment has said not knowing why he made the mistake will “plague me for the rest of my life”.
Father-of-two Aiden Chaffe, 31, died as he tried to make a high-performance landing, known as swooping, an inquest in Nottingham heard on Tuesday.
It was told how this type of parachuting was the most dangerous aspect of the sport and claimed the life of three people in 2018, including Mr Chaffe.
Tony Butler, the chief executive of the British Parachute Association (BPA), who investigated the tragedy, said Mr Chaffe was “very experienced”, having jumped 1,328 times, including 60 in the month before his death at Langar airfield near Nottingham on October 22 last year.
Mr Butler, who has investigated 50 parachuting fatalities, said Mr Chaffe was working towards his qualification in canopy piloting – the branch of the sport that involves increasing your speed as you near the ground in order to swoop in for a landing – and had completed many successful high performance landings.
He said Mr Chaffe, who lived in Shardlow, Derbyshire, had jumped with two other parachutists from about 6,000ft and his canopy deployed correctly.
But he said he made an “error of judgment” as he executed a manoeuvre starting at between 700ft and 1,000ft.
Mr Butler told the coroner: “We all make errors of judgment. Aiden was a very sensible sky-diver but you’re dealing with a very dangerous aspect of our sport.”
He added: “It is without doubt the most dangerous form of parachuting because, performing high-performance landings, if you make an error of judgment even by a second or two, it can result in a catastrophic landing.
“There are skydivers with thousands of jumps, that have won World Championships in this kind of thing and they’ve been killed or injured because it’s a split-second judgment in that last portion of time.”
He said the BPA was reviewing canopy piloting in the light of the recent tragedies.
Mr Chaffe’s mother, Karen Turner, told the inquest how her son had started parachuting aged 16 with his father, Bryn Chaffe, who is also a very experienced participant in the sport.
She said he became obsessed with the sport but was always extremely careful to the point of being a perfectionist.
Ms Turner said she did not understand what changed in his thinking on the day he died.
Assistant Nottinghamshire coroner James Hargan recorded a conclusion of accident saying a “fractional error of judgment” had “horrifying and tragic consequences”.
The coroner said he had examined Facebook exchanges provided by Ms Turner from the week before the tragedy in which Mr Chaffe’s asked for guidance on his high-performance landings.
In one series of postings, an experienced skydiver says “start lower, hold for longer” to which Mr Chaffe replies: “Crash and die?”
The coroner said any idea the social media exchanges influenced Mr Chaffe conflicted with all the evidence he heard about his careful attitude to parachuting training and practice.
Speaking outside the hearing at the council house in Nottingham, Ms Turner said she fully accepted and agreed with the coroner’s conclusions.
She said: “It’s hard for me because, knowing Aiden and the person that he was, I just don’t understand why he did what he did.
“And that will plague me for the rest of my life.
“You want to know the detail, you want to understand why somebody makes a decision that costs them their life.”
Ms Turner said her son, who leaves a partner and a young son and daughter, “died doing what he loved”.
She said: “It gave him great peace and that’s all you could ever want for your children.”