Three skydivers killed in 'horrific' mid-air collision in far north Queensland, Australia
An experienced skydiving instructor who had completed thousands of jumps was one of three people killed following a mid-air collision in north Queensland, Australia.
The man, in his 30s, was found in a backyard at Mission Beach while the other two were found in a nearby tree, about 1.5km away from the regular landing zone on Friday afternoon.
The pair on a tandem dive, a woman in her 50s and another instructor in his 30s, also suffered critical injuries and died at the scene, about 110km southeast of Cairns.
Police believe the solo skydiver may have collided with the tandem skydivers in mid-air, with their parachutes failing to open properly.
Operating company Skydive Australia released a statement that said the solo skydiver was a "highly experienced instructor who had completed thousands of jumps".
"The other two were jumping as a tandem pair: a highly experienced instructor and a customer," it said.
Skydive Australia confirmed it had suspended operations at Mission Beach while investigations into the incident continued.
"The company extends its deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the individuals and families involved and the broader skydiving community," it said.
An eyewitness told The Cairns Post newspaper he could do nothing as he watched the incident unfold.
"You could see one chute was tangled and it wasn't opening," said the unnamed man.
"I was just watching him in free fall until he went behind the trees, and that was the last I saw.
"It wasn't good to watch. I had my heart in my mouth."
Senior Sergeant Peter Williamson described the scene as "horrific".
"It's a horrific scene, an unfortunate scene and there's going to be a lot of families very upset as a result of this," Williamson said.
"Any accident involving skydivers is not good for anyone.
"This will have a huge effect on tourism and everyone knows Mission Beach runs on tourism."
Cassowary Coast Regional Council mayor John Kremastos said the region had been rocked by the news of the fatalities.
"We're very saddened and grieved by what's happened," he said.
"Our hearts and prayers and thoughts go out to the families."
Mission Beach, between Cairns and Townsville, is a regular skydiving spot for tourists.
The Australian Parachute Federation is also reportedly sending representatives north from Brisbane to investigate.
The Queensland Police Service was leading the investigation and being assisted by "a number of other agencies", according to a QPS spokeswoman.
- AAP, Brisbane Times