Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Employee of Start Skydiving has died after accident involving aircraft

Sadly an employee of Start Skydiving in Middletown, OH that was in critical condition after walking into a spinning propeller Sunday around 1pm, passed away on Tuesday at Miami Valley hospital in Dayton, OH.

The employee, Sarah Rhoads, 24, was an office manager at the Drop Zone and had been there for 3 years. Employees of the DZ have installed a flag that reads "Never Quit", because they say she would want them to carry on without her. The DZO John Hart stated, "Her loss will be a tremendous one, and her ever-present positivity will be hard to do without."

The aircraft was a Twin Otter on lease from another skydiving company. It was not moving and was waiting for the next load of skydivers to board when the accident occurred.

As I stated in my Safety Day article, I think that it is very important for us Jump Pilot's to regularly remind skydivers and staff what the proper procedures are while walking near spinning propellers. I'm not saying that the pilot of this particular aircraft did not brief the skydivers and staff, however this accident is a reminder that we need to do it more often.

Talking about it once a year during Safety Day is not enough or this accident might not have happened. I believe that all Drop Zone staff and regular fun jumpers should have a meeting where safety topics are discussed at least once a month. If I was the DZO, it would happen once a week.

There should always be at least one ground crew, usually the person that helps to load the skydivers, standing near the aircraft making sure that no one walks near the spinning propellers. Again, I'm not saying that this company does not have a ground crew person that does that. However, this is a reminder as to why Drop Zones should have one and one that has their duties prioritized.

This tragedy touches close to home for me and my fellow jump pilots and our prayers have now turned to the family and friends of Sarah. That they will support each other and remain strong after losing her.


  1. Very tragic. It sounds like she had a ton of friends, and will be missed immensely. God Speed Sarah!

  2. So tragic. One of our Australian top pro golfers had his life changed forever in just a fraction of a second. Lived but suffers. Take care guys

  3. The dropzone that I trained at tought us to always aproach the wide and from the rear and was drummed into us from day one and on every refresh during training which was on a daily basis and is also included as part of the A license writen test.skydiving helmets are also compulsory here in UK, maybe should be everywhere. Blue skyes to ya Sarah.

  4. I lost a dear friend that way about 16 years ago....... props are invisible when they are turning so fast. All I can say is, ALWAYS be that person watching out for the guy who isn't. You can save lives if you pay attention, especially when boarding aircraft.

  5. :( no one told us, Life's fair... R.I.P.