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Fatal mishap behind them, skydivers return to air

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

ELOY, Ariz. — Skydivers from around the world returned to the air on Wednesday at a popular Arizona skydiving location that was the site of a deadly mishap involving two parachutists a day earlier.

Two skydivers were killed on Tuesday when they collided during a jump, collapsing their parachutes and sending them plummeting to the ground. The men — one from the United Kingdom and another from Germany — were among about 200 people trying to set world records for group jumps.

Participants met on Wednesday and decided getting back in the air was the best way to pay tribute to their friends.

“Of course, it makes me a little nervous, but this kind of thing happens. That's the price of skydiving,” said Evgenii Dolgopolov, of Moscow, who witnessed the accident. He planned to jump again on Wednesday.

“This kind of thing happens sometimes, but it's very rare,” he added.

Witnesses told investigators that both skydivers had open canopies when they ran into each other 200 feet above the ground. The accident occurred about 4:50 p.m., said Sgt. Brian Jerome, an Eloy police spokesman. Eloy police identified the victims as Keiron O'Rourke, 40, of the United Kingdom, who had logged 849 previous jumps; and Bernd Schmehl, 51, of Germany, who was highly experienced, too, with 1,707 jumps.

The skydivers are in Arizona for Square One World Sequential Series 2013, a gathering aimed at setting numerous world records for group skydiving with participants from around the world. Registrants paid $2,050 to sign up for the event.

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