The pair were teaching an ongoing course to the Canadian military and each had thousands of dives to his credit before the fateful plunge Thursday afternoon at the Perris Valley Skydiving Center in this Southern California desert community.
Christopher David Stasky, of San Diego, and Patrick James McGowan Jr., of Menifee, both 42, were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. The midair collision and ensuing crash happened within seconds of each other and bystanders rushed to provide CPR, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
Paramedics were summoned and found the pair in full arrest, then spent 17 minutes trying vainly to save their lives.
"It's weighing heavily on everyone's mind; it's a sad day here," skydiving instructor Scott Smith told AOL News. "It just makes you realize nobody is bullet proof."
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"He was a great guy, really positive, and a tremendous instructor," Smith said. "He was very, very safe."
McGowan leaves behind a wife and two young children. Stasky, who was single, was also a certified pilot and licensed to pack parachutes. His specialty was teaching skydiving to soldiers from around the world.
"It's a pretty small list to get into that cadre," said Blake Robinson, director of operations for Skydive San Diego, a training site that was Stasky's home base.
Robinson told AOL News that Stasky was known for his witty, dry sense of humor and often barbecued for colleagues on weekends. The news that one of their best instructors had died was unbelievable, Robinson said.
"He was not who I expect to be involved in a canopy collision," he said. "They collided at a very low altitude and they simply did not have time to correct it. There are no old, bold skydivers. You don't get to be experienced by being rash and careless. He was on the conservative end of even that spectrum."
Skydivers typically jump out of airplanes at 13,000 feet and travel about 120 mph before inflating their parachutes. Then they coast to earth at 20 to 40 mph, Robinson said. Instructors like Stasky and McGowan usually utilize parachutes that are smaller, faster and more maneuverable than a common parachute.
Last year, 21 deaths occurred nationwide and 19 the year before out of approximately 3 million skydives, according to the U.S. Parachute Association.
"There is a misconception about the danger involved; it's actually a very safe sport," association spokeswoman Nancy Koreen told AOL News. "There are risks, but they go through extensive training to be able to react to any type of emergency situation. Occasionally accidents do happen due to human error as opposed to faulty equipment."