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Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Lack of oxygen
caused skydivers’ pilot
to crash, safety board
report says

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The pilot of a skydiving plane apparently lost control of his aircraft and crashed off Mokuleia in 1999 because he was suffering from hypoxia -- a lack of oxygen to the brain -- from repeated flights to altitudes above 18,000 feet without the use of an oxygen mask.

Shawn Gloyer, 48, died when the Beechcraft B-90 he was piloting crashed into the ocean 1.5 miles northeast of Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia on May 22, 1999. His body was never found.

The impact was so severe that only pieces of the aircraft, owned by Pacific International Skydiving Center, were found after they sank to a depth of about 156 feet.

A National Transportation Safety Board accident report said the crash occurred after the 12th sport parachute jump of the day. Witnesses said the plane went down nose first without the engines sputtering or popping or making any erratic movements.

Skydivers said that two pervious jumps had been made from 18,000 feet, and the last jump was from 20,000 feet.

"During the final jump flight, one of the skydivers stated he had a hard time breathing and felt nauseous," the accident report said. "The skydivers noted that the pilot was unable to maintain a steady course and did not respond well to minor course corrections. No supplemental oxygen was found during the recovery or subsequent inspection phases of the investigation."

The plane's pressurization system would have been inoperable because the cockpit door could not be sealed.

Hypoxia occurs when a person is deprived of oxygen, resulting in poor judgment and reaction time. It can result in loss of consciousness with little or no warning.

A couple of the skydivers had paid Gloyer to climb to 20,000 feet for the day's last jump, which occurred 20 minutes after sunset. However, the parachutists jumped without any lights, which are required by the Federal Aviation Administration for night jumps.

The pilot also had not made any of the required radio calls to the air traffic control center, nor did he report that he planned to make any jumps above 16,000 feet.

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