SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Francine Salazar Turner looked up at the sky and wondered which of the skydivers was her 18-year-old son, and the instructor he was strapped to.
Her uncertainty would soon turn to tragedy as the two connected men would die when their shared parachute failed to open.
Salazar Turner described the final moments of her son, Tyler Turner, to The Associated Press on Monday. The instructor, whose name has not been released, was found Saturday with his hand on the lever for a backup parachute but it was never pulled, she said.
Turner made the jump with three friends who landed safely. His mother called him an adventurous spirit who was willing to try anything just about anything – including the jump that was on his bucket list of things to do in life.
“One of the last things they wanted to do was go on a skydiving trip they’ve been talking about,” Salazar Turner said about her son and his friends. “I hate for any other mother to go through this.”
He had a mild case of cerebral palsy and walked with a crouched gait that did nothing to dampen his zest for life, Salazar Turner said.
Turner had graduated from high school with honors and had been bound for the University of California at Merced this month to study biomedical engineering.
On Saturday, his mother drove Turner and his best friend to the Parachute Center in Lodi, east of San Francisco, where she says they joined two other friends and sped through a safety video.
Before going up in a plane, Tyler Turner knelt at the edge of the jumping area and said a quick prayer. He gave his mom a tight hug and told her he loved her.
Salazar Turner said she was appalled that the center continued sending people up to jump while she waited for word about her son. She thought the center might halt operations.
“I’m out there waiting for my son to be recovered, for hours, and they just kept jumping over my head,” she said.
Salazar Turner said she paid $175 for her son’s jump, which included a video recording that is now in the hands of federal investigators.
The four friends filled out paperwork but didn’t finish watching the safety video before they were hustled into gear, she said.
Bill Dause, owner of the Parachute Center, said the instructor was a veteran who had about 700 previous jumps. Dause said he sympathized but there was nothing he could do.
The wind and other conditions were perfect, he added.
“It was just an accident,” he told The Associated Press on Monday.