Canyon Lake man dies sky diving in Belize
By: JOHN HALL -Staff Writer
The cremated remains of a Canyon Lake man who was killed when he plunged into the Caribbean Sea while sky-diving off Belize last week were expected to return to the area late Tuesday, officials said.
Chad Hansen Zielinski, 45, jumped from the plane about 12:20 p.m. Thursday at an altitude of 13,000 feet about a half-mile across the barrier reef near San Pedro Town, Belize police Sgt. Dennis Myles said Tuesday.
His body was found and removed from the sea about two hours later, Myles said. An autopsy, or postmortem, as it is called in Belize, was done and the cause of death was described as traumatic shock, the spokesman added.
Zielinski was among 130 sky divers from as far away as Japan, Poland and South Africa taking part in an event called "Boogie in Belize II," said Rich Grimm of Tsunami Skydivers, the La Mesa company that organized the trip.
Grimm called Zielinski "a very, very experienced jumper" who had been sky-diving for more than 20 years. This was Zielinski's first sky-dive trip to Belize, a popular Central American tourist destination, Grimm added.
Zielinski was wearing what's called a "wing suit" for the jump, Grimm said. Such a suit when used by sky divers can slow their descent down to about 70 to 80 mph from the more typical speed of more than 100 mph.
"A wing suit can be cumbersome," Grimm said. "For whatever reason, his chute didn't deploy," Grimm said. "We've done a full investigation and examined his gear. It was all worn properly and in perfect working order."
"We're perplexed" about why Zielinski was unable to deploy either of his parachutes, Grimm added.
One theory Grimm shared was that Zielinski may have lost track of his altitude. When sky diving over the ocean, it can be more difficult for a sky diver to get his bearings because there aren't visual markers like houses or trees to gauge altitude from ---- just an expanse of blue water.
Grimm also said it was possible some sort of medical condition could have led to the failure to deploy the parachutes.
"Safety is our No. 1 priority," Grimm said, adding that more than 1,100 sky dives were safely completed during the 10-day event, which ran from Feb. 11 through Monday.
There are safety boats in the water for every jump, Grimm said, and those boats ---- as well as others from Belize and scuba divers ---- were immediately out searching for Zielinski when it became known his chutes did not deploy.
His body was ultimately found by the very aircraft Zielinski jumped from, which flew from the Perris Valley Skydiving resort for the event.
Zielinski's body was cremated and his cremains were set to be flown back to the United States on Tuesday when the local sky divers returned to Perris Valley Airport, Grimm said.
After Zielinski fell to his death, jumps for that day were stopped and the following morning memorial jumps were done to honor him.
"We all felt that he would have wanted us to go on," Grimm said.
Contact staff writer John Hall at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2628, or [email protected]