A HOLIDAY trip of a lifetime for a father of two from North Yorkshire turned to tragedy when a tandem parachute jump in the Grand Canyon ended in disaster an inquest has found.

The trip was a special 30th anniversary present for Christopher Swales from his devoted wife Deborah in September 2019. The inquest at Northallerton court house held by North Yorkshire coroner Jonathan Heath heard Mr Swales fell to his death when the landing went wrong. He recorded a verdict that 'on the balance of probability' it was an accident.

Mr Swales, 55, who ran a joinery business in Harrogate, was jumping in tandem with military instructor Matthew McGonagle, a veteran of over 1,500 jumps.

Winds on the Cessna flight were 27mph, 2mph higher than would be permitted for a British jump. The inquest was told Mr McGonagle had said while the winds were higher than normal it was not anything that he hadn’t experienced before.

American investigators said that the parachute had opened normally but as they came into land the landing area was missed, a manoeuvre was performed by the instructor, which was later said to be a sharp left turn, but the parachute didn’t recover and the men fell to the ground.

Mr Swales was seriously injured and died at the scene. Matthew McGonagle suffered a broken leg. A pathologist concluded Mr Swales had died from blunt force injuries.

The inquest heard investigators who inspected the parachute found patches sewn into the fabric on the top of the chute. Defect holes in the material appeared to have been ringed to track movement.

In a statement Jason Theuma the owner of Paragon Skydiving in Arizona, which organised the jump said he saw it from the ground and did not observe any problems with the equipment during the descent but thought the instructor 'panicked' as he was coming into land, performed an aggressive left turn and the chute fell down.

Mr Heath summed up: "A manoeuvre was undertaken and the parachute didn't act as it should have done and didn't open sufficiently prior to the impact on the ground. On the balance of probabilities Mr Swale's death was accidental."

Mr Swales family attended the inquest and said at the end. "It is important for these proceedings to establish the facts. For Chris's friends and family he led a full life full of love and full of exciting fun times, we had many good times and that is how we will remember him."