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Skydiver Dies in Tragic 'Honeymoon in Vegas

Skydiver Dies in Tragic 'Honeymoon in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (The Blaze/AP) -- It was supposed to be a special gift to a grandmother - a skydiving adventure with a veteran instructor who was one of the Elvis Presley impersonators jumping from an airplane in the movie "Honeymoon in Vegas."

Instead it was a tragedy near the Nevada-Arizona border as two parachutes failed to open properly during the tandem jump, sending 75-year-old Claudette Porter of North Las Vegas and instructor James Fonnesbeck to their deaths.

Porter's husband Jim Porter says his wife had talked about skydiving at least 20 years. Their granddaughter arranged for her to go skydiving for her birthday.

Fonnesbeck had been diving more than 40 years, with nearly 11,000 jumps.

Mesquite police say the jumpers' primary parachute didn't fully deploy, and a backup chute became entangled in the main chute when it was deployed.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A skydiving instructor killed along with his 75-year-old student after their main parachute failed to open properly during a weekend tandem dive had nearly 11,000 jumps over more than 40 years, and was among a group of Elvis Presley impersonators who jumped out of an airplane in the movie "Honeymoon in Vegas."

Skydive Mesquite instructor James Fonnesbeck, 60, of Weston, Idaho, and his student Claudette Porter of North Las Vegas died in the Sunday accident near the Nevada-Arizona border, the Clark County coroner's office said Monday.

Porter's husband, Jim Porter, told The Associated Press that his wife had been looking forward to the jump arranged by his granddaughter as a gift for her birthday. He said he accompanied his wife on the excursion along with several family members.

"Things like that happen once in a while and there's just not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it," Porter said.

He said his wife had been talking about skydiving for at least 20 years.

During the jump, the main parachute attached to Fonnesbeck and Porter did not fully deploy, and a backup chute became entangled with the main chute when the instructor deployed it, Mesquite police spokesman Jeffrey Smith said.

The backup chute had only partially opened before Fonnesbeck and Porter hit the runway at Mesquite's airport, Smith said. Fonnesbeck died at the scene, while Porter died at a hospital.

Skydive Mesquite owner Brad Jessey said he was still trying to figure out why the parachute malfunctioned, especially given Fonnesbeck's decades of experience as a diver and instructor.

Fonnesbeck moved to St. George, Utah, with his wife and became a skydiving instructor. His Facebook page features photos of the couple jumping from a plane, holding hands in midair and together on the ground with a deployed parachute.

"It just baffles me that it could happen to him," Jessey said.

"I mean, the one thing we all said about him was, `You know, he won't die skydiving,'" Jessey said. "Well, somehow it happened, and I have no idea how."

Jessey noted Fonnesbeck was among the team of skydiving Elvis impersonators in the 1992 film "Honeymoon in Vegas," starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus in Renton, Wash., said investigators were looking into whether the parachutes had been properly inspected before the jump, and were also checking on the Cessna 206 airplane and its flying route.

He said federal rules require chutes to be inspected every six months. Backup chutes are required to be packed before jumps by an FAA-certified parachute rigger, while main chutes must be packed with at least the supervision of a certified rigger, Fergus said.

Jessey said the tandem jump was designed to last nearly seven minutes, with as much as 40 second of freefalling and five to six minutes of gliding over the Mesquite airport before landing.

The airport is about 85 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

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