A parachutist was killed Thursday afternoon when she struck a tractor-trailer and crash-landed on Highway 99 outside Lodi Airport and the trouble-plagued skydiving facility based there, according to the California Highway Patrol.
CHP officials said the 28-year-old woman parachuting with a group was making a descent about 2 p.m. when she collided with the rear of a big rig on southbound Highway 99 in Acampo. The skydiver then struck the highway’s right-hand shoulder near Jahant Road, where she was pronounced dead. The parachutist’s name had not yet been released. The truck’s driver was not hurt.
CHP investigators Thursday were responding to the scene at Jahant Road. The No. 2 southbound lane of Highway 99 was closed, causing a severe backup. Authorities urged drivers to avoid the area and take alternate routes.
It was unclear what caused the skydiver to drift onto the highway, but an onlooker who witnessed the immediate aftermath said winds near the airport and the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center in Acampo were clocked at a brisk 15 knots or 17 mph – enough to ground light planes at the airstrip.
Rich Edwards was driving north on a frontage road returning to Acampo Flying Club at Lodi Airport about 2:15 p.m., as the incident unfolded. The tractor-trailer was headed southbound on the highway.
“I drove by and saw the truck pulling over. There was a body lying on the (pavement),” Edwards said. “I saw a chute on the road and a bunch of people.”
Emergency crews from nearby Woodbridge Fire District responded to the scene.
Representatives of the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center declined to comment.
The center has been the site of numerous fatalities in recent years. In 2018, the facility was raided by FBI agents who confiscated records, receipts and video footage.
Thursday’s death would mark at least 21 casualties at the Lodi Parachute Center since 1981 and the first since a woman fell to her death nearly a year ago in October 2018 when her chute failed to open. She had used her own equipment, officials said at the time, but the fatality was followed by a Federal Aviation Administration investigation.
In 2017, Matthew Ciancio, 42, died in an accident in which his parachute never deployed.
Three fatalities were tied to the center in 2016, including one due to a parachute malfunction. The dead also included a student and instructor who jumped in tandem. An investigation later found that the instructor had not been properly licensed at the time of the fatal jump.