Skydiving pair died doing what they loved Sara Loshe and Ron Samac shared a joy of parachuting. Human error caused their fatal fall, authorities said.

Posted: July 06, 2005

Sara Loshe and Ron Samac had just started dating, brought together by their love of skydiving. And that's how they died, with parachutes entangled during a Fourth of July jump.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the accident at the Freefall Adventures Skydiving School at Cross Keys Airport in Gloucester County. An investigator spent yesterday interviewing witnesses and the manager of the Williamstown operation, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.

Loshe and Samac collided about 150 feet above the ground, falling the equivalent of a 15-story building and crashing onto a field about 2:30 p.m. Monday. They died upon impact, said local authorities, who attributed the accident to human error.

"They were spinning horizontally," Freefall Adventures manager Glenn Bangs said yesterday. "They made two revolutions, and they impacted on the ground."

Loshe and Samac were veterans of more than 1,000 jumps apiece. Loshe, a 23-year-old from the Bridgeport section of Logan Township, was an instructor at the school. She had recently moved out of her family's Bridgeport house and into a trailer park in Williamstown so she could be closer to the school, said her mother, Sandy. She described her daughter as a born-again Christian with infectious energy.

"She was a real bubbly person," Sandy Loshe said. "She just loved the thrill of skydiving - the freedom."

Samac, 33, an X-ray technician with nearly 1,700 jumps under his belt, was from Wesley Chapel, Fla., just outside Tampa. His parents, who live in Sarasota, Fla., were unavailable for comment yesterday.

The couple "caught each other in the wind and smacked together," Loshe's mother said.

Moments before the accident, Loshe and Samac fluttered toward the ground, circling each other in a kind of dance filmed by a third sky diver, Bangs said.

As they approached the ground, they separated and opened their parachutes, which "functioned normally," Bangs said. But one of the jumpers accidentally steered his or her parachute into the other's.

"If you are driving a car on the highway, you always look before you turn or change lanes. If you are flying a parachute in the air, you always look before you turn," Bangs said. "This is a classic example of turning and not looking, or being so close that the other person is temporarily in your blind spot, and when you see them it's too late."

These were the fifth and sixth deaths connected to the school or Skydive Cross Keys, a club for licensed parachutists run from the school. One, however, was not a skydiving accident: A Freefall Adventures employee was burned at a bonfire party in April 2004.

Last year, Craig Kuske, a 29-year-old from Louisiana, died in a jump. At the time, authorities speculated that his parachute failed to open properly, but yesterday Bangs said an investigation showed that Kuske had deployed his chute too late. The FAA, which regulates the packing of parachutes and investigated the accident, was unable to find the investigative file by yesterday evening.

Each year, about 3.2 million people skydive across the nation, with an average of 25 to 30 fatalities, according to the United States Parachute Association, based in Alexandria, Va.

With 21 deaths, last year was one of the safest since the association began keeping records in 1963. The deadliest years were in the late 1970s and early '80s, when there were as many as 56 deaths in one year, the association's Chris Needels said.

The FAA investigation into the July Fourth accident is expected to take at least a week, Peters said.

Contact staff writer Wendy Ruderman at 856-779-3926 or wruderman@phillynews.com.

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