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After 2,500-plus sky-dives, 81-year-old Minnesotan dies after parachute mishap

Parachuting (Wlodek k1/WikiCommons)
August 17, 2019

A Minnesotan with more than 2,500 sky diving jumps to his credit died while parachuting in Montana after his parachute malfunctioned.

Gerald Fischer, 81, of Moorhead, died last Saturday afternoon during a sky diving event near Marion in northwest Montana, according to the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.

The malfunction sent Fischer spinning counterclockwise starting at about 4,000 feet above the ground, the Sheriff’s Office said. He landed in a pasture, where emergency responders declared him dead.

The event, the Lost Prairie Boogie, is one of the largest gatherings of sky divers in the West. The nine-day summer camp draws hundreds of jumpers from around the United States and other countries. Several people have died at the site over the years, including five people who were killed in a plane crash shortly after takeoff in 2007.

The malfunction, a so-called “hard opening,” occurs when the parachute suddenly jolts open instead of providing a gradual opening and descent. This type of malfunction often causes serious injuries or death.

Fischer was born on Christmas Day 1937 in Moorhead and graduated from Moorhead High School. Following high school, Fischer served in the Army with the 101st Airborne as a parachuter.

In the mid-1990s, when he was his 50s, Fischer took up sky diving as a sport and had 2,549 completed jumps. He was part of a world record jump when he was among eight other sky divers over age 70 who sky-dived in formation, and his online obituary noted that he held numerous state and world records.

“It keeps me going,” Fischer said in an interview in 2016 with KVRR-TV in Fargo. “It’s a sport. It’s something that gets in your blood. It’s almost addictive.”


© 2019 the Star Tribune