Two skydivers dead after parachute malfunction

Local News
NEPHI, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Family and friends are mourning the loss of two women who died Thursday night while tandem skydiving in Nephi.
 
Wendi Gabaldon, 41, lived in Tooele and her family says it’s been hard dealing with this loss.
Serena Whelchel, 35, was the instructor who also died and many are saddened and wondering what went wrong.
 
It was supposed to be a fun thrill-seeking adventure when Wendi Gabaldon and her family came to the Nephi Airport Thursday night.
 
One family even joked on Facebook.
 
“Lol well today is the day friends. Me and my family will be throwing ourselves out of a plane and free falling to the earth. Lord, please make sure we make it through this wonderful experience of skydiving. Amen!”
 
The group did their jump through Sky Dive the Wasatch.
Witnesses who were working nearby tell us everything looked normal at first, but then they realized something was wrong.
 
“They just spiraled basically all the way to the ground. Parachute was out the entire time they basically just corkscrewed into the ground. Pretty much horizontal the whole time,” said Aaron Burton, witness. 
 
Burton and his mother rushed out with others to try and help and administered CPR.
The two women were transported to the hospital where they were pronounced dead a short time later.
 
Police say it was the backup parachute that was deployed, and the main shoot was never used. They say the difficult part is finding out how to investigate such a rare case.
 
“Trying to find out who or where to go to for expertise on the equipment itself and how it functions,” said Cpt. Bert Wright with Nephi Police Department. 
 
Investigators say the instructor was very experienced. One of her friends who didn’t want to go on camera told us she had been skydiving for 16 years and had done more than 4,000 jumps. ABC4 Utah reached out to Sky Dive Wasatch, but the company has not responded.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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