Skydiver Dimitri Didenko fell to his death in front of shocked onlookers after his parachute failed to open during an event at the Virtual Australian Skydiving Championships in Jurien Bay, north of Perth, on Sunday.
Russian-born Didenko, 30, was competing solo in the wingsuit category – an elite form of the extreme sport – when the tragedy struck.
Around two-dozen people, including friends, witnessed Didenko fall to his death from a reported height of more than 20,000ft, while fellow skydivers on the ground tried desperately to save him.
Didenko was a respected skydiver and had completed more than 6,000 jumps.
“The first responders, and the (people) who had to witness this, it must be absolutely chilling,” said local official Leslee Holmes.
A GPS device fitted to Didenko’s helmet, which records details and feeds them back for jumps to be judged, will now be an important part of the investigation.
The Australian Parachute Federation have promised a thorough probe, while an investigation is also underway involving the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
The local community was said to be stunned at the fatality.
“I’ve been skydiving for 38 years and here in Jurien for 10 years and never had a fatality,” Skydive Jurien Bay’s co-owner, Pete Lonnon, was quoted as saying by Australia’s 7News.
“The staff here are pretty shaken up, we’re looking after each other and counselling will be available.”
After the news of his death, tributes poured in on social media for Didenko, who was born in Russia but lived in Italy.
“Not you too!” wrote fellow skydiver MG Franco in a tribute in Italian on Instagram. “Fly high, we will miss your amazing madness. Blue skies!”
Didenko was said to have been using his own equipment at the time of the tragedy.
“Regardless of the level of experience involved, safety is paramount and we take the incident very seriously,” said Australian Parachute Federation chief executive officer Richard McCooey.