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Skydivers return to site where 2 died

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POSTED December 4, 2013 10:53 p.m.

ELOY, Ariz. (AP) — Skydivers from around the world returned to the air Wednesday at a popular Arizona skydiving location that was the site of a deadly mishap involving two parachutists a day earlier.

Two male skydivers were killed Tuesday after they collided during a jump, collapsing their parachutes and sending them plummeting to the ground. They and others were trying to set world records for group jumps.

Participants met Wednesday and decided getting back in the air was the best way to pay tribute to their friends.

"Of course it makes me a little nervous, but this kind of thing happens. That's the price of skydiving," said Evgenii Dolgopolov, of Moscow, Russia, who witnessed the accident.

Witnesses told investigators that both skydivers had open canopies when they ran into each other 200 to 300 feet above the ground, said Sgt. Brian Jerome, an Eloy police spokesman. Their canopies collapsed and they fell to the ground around 4:50 p.m., Jerome said.

A third skydiver was injured in an unrelated accident.

Police have not yet released the names of any of the people involved, but skydivers at the site said Wednesday that the victims were from the United Kingdom and Germany.

The skydivers are in Arizona for a series of attempts to break world records for sequential jumps, which typically involve a large number of divers who create formations as they parachute to the ground. Dozens of women gathered at the site Saturday to break the world record for an all-female mass-formation jump.

Skydive Arizona, between Phoenix and Tucson, has become one of the nation's top skydiving spots since it opened in the 1980s. The location is ideal because the weather almost always cooperates and provides clear, sunny skies most days of the year. And it's in a vast uninhabited location that provides plenty of jumping opportunities.

But participants in this week's event said the setting sun around the time of Tuesday's jump was bright and might have caused the victims to lose sight of each other. They also noted it's important during group jumps to not get caught up in taking in the scenery.

"The first thing I do is look around," said Martial Ferre, from France. "I don't enjoy the view of this desert of Arizona. I just look for the others, and I look for a safe landing zone."

As he carried around his parachute gear after a jump, Ferre said getting back in the air was the right thing to do after the tragedy.

"We had to increase the morale of everybody," Ferre said. "The first thing that we did was to ask people, 'Do we want to continue jumping?' Everybody wanted to get back into action to bring this record in memory of these two guys."

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