Skydiving company responds to Central Saanich complaint

Owner of Capital City Skydiving says they adhere to the sport’s regulations

Tandem skydivers who were trapped in a tree in Central Saanich were taken to hospital following their rescue, both had abrasions and scratches and one with a upper body fracture, according to Central Saanich Fire Chief Chris Vrabel. (Facebook)

With more than 4,000 successful jumps to date, the owner of Capital City Skydiving wonders why there’s been so much fuss made over three incidents.

Bob Verret responded recently to the News Review story about a complaint made by the District of Central Saanich over two of those incidents — the more public one a case where tandem jumpers were caught up in trees near Mount Newton Cross Road. That case saw an arborist with extensive rope rescue experience called in to help local emergency services.

Mayor Ryan Windsor said the municipality was concerned with safety in the wake of those incidents. He also told the PNR that while there is always a cost to such rescues, the District’s emergency personnel didn’t base response decisions upon that bottom line.

Central Saanich council asked staff to send their complaint letter to Transport Canada. However, Transport Canada does not oversee safety regulations and standards for skydiving — they only regulate the pilots and aircraft used. Skydiving standards are set out by the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association.

“We try to, ever since we’ve opened here, be as safe as we possibly can,” Verret said.

The original story generated various social media posts on the News Review’s Facebook page; mostly people who support the company.

Verret has extensive experience in skydiving, having spent a career in the Canadian Forces, mostly as a Search and Rescue technician — or someone who jumps out of aircraft, responding to emergencies, for a living.

“I’ve been in skydiving since 1976, I’ve seen a lot.”

Verret said skydiving is, by its very nature, a dangerous sport.

“Like any sport, accidents do happen. I’m not saying nothing ever happens … but there are risks.”

He said the incident that saw the tandem jumpers land in trees came about due to a twist in the line when a wind came up that was stronger than expected. The operator, he said, was attempting to ‘kick out’ of the twist but the wind blew them north, away from their drop zone at Woodwyn Farm, and into the trees. Both skydivers suffered minor injuries.

Still, Verret said his company’s safety record is strong, noting the third incident — which saw two skydivers injured in hard landings at the Oak Bay Tea Party this year — involved only his company’s aircraft, not their skydivers. Capital City Skydiving operates out of the Victoria International Airport in North Saanich.

What he said bothers him the most, however, is the lack of communication from Central Saanich. Verret said he’s not had any conversations with Windsor or District staff over the latest incidents. Verret said the last time he communicated with Central Saanich was two years ago and related to complaints made by neighbours of the drop zone over noise issues. Apart from the sound of parachutes opening and skydivers “hooting and hollering” on the way down, additional complaints about his airplane flying low are unfounded, he said.

Verret said they lowest they fly is 3,500 feet for novice jumpers. For experienced skydivers, they move up to 10,000 feet. Verret noted the airspace in the area is a holding area for the Victoria International Airport, and therefore sees a lot of air traffic.

He said, despite the complaints made by the District, he’s still willing to meet with council to discuss their concerns.

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