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October 30, 2014

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Skydiver killed in freak accident in Boulder City

A world-renowned cameraman and expert skydiver was killed in a freak accident Sunday when he collided with another parachutist while filming friends jumping in Boulder City.

Victor Pappadato, 34, of Southern California, died from an apparent broken neck, authorities said.

A pending medical examination is expected to determine whether Pappadato died from colliding in mid-air with another parachutist or upon landing in a flat area a few hundred yards from the Boulder City Airport.

"I'd call it a one-in-a-million type fatality," said Michael Hawkes, owner of Skydive Las Vegas at Boulder City Airport. "Usually accidents occur when canopies become entangled -- what we call a 'canopy collision.' What happened Sunday was so rare. Two bodies actually collided."

Equipped with a 10-pound camera on his helmet, Pappadato leapt from the plane about 9 a.m. to capture images of eight friends doing formations while free-falling, Hawkes said.

The accident occurred after the group completed formations -- the moment when cameraman and jumpers are supposed to get some distance from one another and then deploy, or open, their parachutes for landing.

"The cameraman is supposed to deploy 'high,' at 4,000 feet, before everyone else does at 2,500 feet," Hawkes said. The technique, he explained, is for safety -- the cameraman typically has his back to the sun and could easily be out of his subjects' visibility.

Pappadato, for unknown reasons, deployed his chute at 2,500 feet with the rest of the group. Witnesses reported seeing Pappadato's chute open with several sharp twists, severely turning him in the wind with the added weight of the hefty camera into jumper Joe Herbst, 47.

Herbst was temporarily unconscious when he landed, but later came to and was taken to University Medical Center with bumps and bruises.

"Vic made no attempt to steer (his parachute) down after they collided," Hawkes said, leaving many to wonder if the mid-air impact produced the fatality.

Parachutists performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Pappadato within an minute of landing, but the veteran jumper had already died, Hawkes said.

Pappadato was an expert in the sport and had completed more than 3,600 jumps.

He worked for ESPN, most recently for the Extreme Games and the Pro Skydiving Tour games.

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