World

Scottish skydiver dies in Thailand jump

An experienced Scottish skydiver has died while taking part in a jump in Thailand.

James McConnell (69) known as Jim, landed in a reservoir north of the resort town of Pattaya after embarking on a skydive on Thursday.

An official and friend at the skydiving centre he jumped with said he is "99 per cent certain" Mr McConnell had a heart attack or a stroke shortly after leaving the plane, causing him to lose some level of consciousness.

He also described Mr McConnell, who is believed to have lived in Thailand for 19 years, as a "lovely" and "unassuming" man who was a competent skydiver.

In a Facebook posting, Mr McConnell's son Mark wrote: "It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell my Facebook friends and family that my dad Jim McConnell has sadly passed away.

"As soon as I can confirm what happened I will let you know but for now, the family and I would appreciate privacy at this difficult time. Blue skies to you all xxx.

"All of you who knew my Dad will know that he went the way he wanted and no-one should feel sad, fly free my hero xx."

Harry Hongjindapong, a spokesman for Thai Sky Adventures, said witness accounts and video evidence suggest Mr McConnell suffered "a medical event" at around 5,000ft, causing him to drift on to his back.

He said the skydiver managed to deploy his reserve parachute late on in the descent, but believes he was only semi-conscious at that point.

"He was an experienced skydiver, he'd been jumping for many years, nearly 1,500 jumps," he said.

"Watching the videos he just rolled on to his back and started spinning. If he was in control of his faculties then he would have regained stability within half a second.

"This sort of thing doesn't happen to an experienced skydiver unless they've lost control over their physical ability."

Mr Hongjindapong said CPR was carried out after the skydiver was recovered from the reservoir, but it is thought he had not been breathing when he entered the water.

He said police plan to carry out further interviews on Sunday with the four other people on the jump.

"That should be the end of the matter," he said.

"As far as we're concerned, this wasn't a skydiving accident, it was a medical event that unfortunately happened while he was skydiving.

"There were no safety standards breached, everything was in order, the parachute was in order, the aeroplane was in order."

It is believed Mr McConnell was employed in the oil industry and would sometimes work overseas.

The final jump was his 1,458th, Mr Hongjindapong said.

"He was just a lovely man," he added.

"I've known him for several years now and he was a regular at the centre. He was a very unassuming character, very competent and I would have every faith in his ability.

"At the end of the day, he died with his boots on. He was doing what he loved doing."

News website Khaosod quoted Colonel Chonnapat Nawalak of Nong Kham police in Chonburi as saying. ''We're still checking the cause of his death. He jumped from the plane and landed in the water, so we have to check whether he died from the jumping or from drowning.''

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: ''We are supporting the family of a British man following his death in Thailand. We are in contact with the Thai police.''