Evidence heard on skydivers in deadly mid-air crash
A FATAL mid-air collision during a birthday skydive above Mission Beach that killed three people was likely caused by the early release of a parachute.
Master skydiver contracted to Skydive Cairns, Peter Dawson, had been encouraging his friend Kerri Pike to take a tandem skydive for about seven years.
Finally she did on October 13 last year, the day after her 54th birthday - a gift organised by her husband Alister Pike.
Yesterday a pre-inquest conference in the Cairns Coronial Court was told that Mr Dawson and Mrs Pike were the last tandem pair to leave the plane followed closely by Toby Turner, who was completing a solo sports jump.
A GoPro worn by Mr Dawson captured the trio's final moments before tragedy struck.
About 18 seconds after Mr Dawson and Mrs Pike leapt from the plane, Mr Turner approached the pair while he was in free fall.
"He was on his belly, he extended his right hand to Kerri. She shook his hand, Toby was smiling, Peter and Kerri were smiling," Counsel assisting the coroner Melinda Zerner said.
"There didn't seem or appear to be any issues at that time."
The footage cut out shortly after Mr Turner released Mrs Pike's hand.
An Australian Parachute Federation investigation determined that the trio had been involved in a "heavy" face-to-face collision with Mr Turner's body making the initial impact. All three were killed instantly.
"They found the main cause of the incident was the premature deployment of Toby's main parachute while directly underneath the tandem pair," Ms Zerner said.
Witnesses saw Mr Turner had both his main and reserve parachute deployed, which was highly unusual.
Ms Zerner said APF investigators believed the collision damaged Mr Turner's main parachute and dislodged his reserve.
The court was told that Mr Dawson and Mrs Pike fell for about 4000 ft until the automatic activation device released the reserve parachute.
Ms Zerner said this was a snapshot of the evidence as it stood.