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Malfunction kills Navy man in sky dive


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A 27-year-old Pearl Harbor-based Navy diver, who died from injuries while sky-diving on the North Shore yesterday, was supposed to deploy today, said Frank Hinshaw, president of Skydive Hawaii.

Kenneth Richard Owens' parachute malfunctioned, he said, and Owens fell some 13,000 feet to his death in Mokuleia.

Hinshaw said a company employee spoke with Owens' father after the accident. “;From what I understand, he was deploying tomorrow,”; he said yesterday, noting he did not know where Owens was assigned. “;What a tragedy.”;

Owens had a wife and child, Hinshaw believes. He is the son of David and Mary Owens of West Chatham, Mass., who declined to comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the accident.

Owens was in a four-person formation when his main parachute failed to open due to what Hinshaw said was a packing error. “;He had a high-speed malfunction, but he should have responded by opening up his reserve.”;

Hinshaw said Owens was sports-jumping with three others and was on his third jump of the day.

Owens landed in a pond on Dillingham Ranch, authorities said. Skydive Hawaii employees pulled Owens from the pond about five minutes later.

The other three divers landed safely at Dillingham Airfield and gave reports to police, Hinshaw said.

Fire officials received the call at 12:27 p.m., and police and fire officials began resuscitation efforts before he was taken by emergency medical service personnel to Wahiawa General Hospital, fire Capt. Earle Kealoha said.

Owens began jumping about a year ago with Skydive Hawaii and had 85 to 95 jumps, Hinshaw said.

“;I remember I congratulated him when he graduated his student program,”; around September 2008, and he had started sky-diving in August 2008, he said.

“;He was a together guy,”; Hinshaw said. “;He seemed to have his wits about him and command over all his facilities. He's a nice, pleasant guy.”;

“;Skydive Hawaii regrets the loss of his life and mourns the loss with his family and friends. ... He had so much potential,”; Hinshaw said.

Owens packed his own parachute but carried a reserve parachute that was packed by a professional rigger, Hinshaw said.

“;It's rare that someone would have a total malfunction and not deploy their reserve parachute,”; he said.

Hinshaw understands why Owens used his last day before shipping out to go sky-diving. “;The people that kind of get addicted to sky diving, you want the adrenaline, where sky diving does give you the adrenaline,”; he said. “;It's something that's very enjoyable.

“;He was a wonderful young man,”; he said. “;He was just enjoying life.”;