Heartbreaking: skydiving community reels at Tyagarah deaths

THE deaths of two experienced skydivers after a mid-air collision over Tyagarah Airstrip, north of Byron Bay, has reverberated around the world and left the local parachuting community grief stricken.

The news of the deaths of Michael Vaughan and Alana Clarke were reported from New York to London, reflecting the esteem the championship parachutist held around the world.

Mr Vaughan was a current large formation record holder as well as the holder of the world silver medal in canopy formation, according to Leanne Critchley, administrator at the South Queensland Parachute Council.

"Michael was just so talented, he was skilled in a range of skydiving disciplines, extraordinary," she said. "But most of all he was an amazing coach and teacher."

Ms Clarke was also an experienced skydiver, and to lose them both had deeply affected the local skydiving community she said.

Alana Clarke
Alana Clarke Contributed Facebook

"This is as bad as it gets," Ms Critchley said.

Mr Vaughan's family turned off his life support on Saturday, the council said in a statement.

"Michael was a frequent visitor and a much-loved friend to this council and all of its members," the organisation said in a statement.

"This has been a heartbreaking time for all of us but most particularly to the partners and families of Michael, and of Alana.

"We stand with them now, and with every painful step forward in the coming days."

They were both extremely committed to safety and the jump was made in controlled circumstances, Ms Critchley said.

The two jumpers were in Tyagarah delivering a week-long course focusing on landing skills.

The industry and all skydiving clubs are highly regulated, and safety is paramount to the sport, Ms Critchley said.

Michael Vaughan

What exactly went wrong is being investigated by a dedicated safety officer who visited the scene of the jump over the weekend and will report to the Australian Parachute Foundation.

"It appears the skydivers opened their parachutes normally however collided with each other soon after," the organisation said.

Ms Clarke had lived in Byron Bay since 2012.

She had recently opened her own babysitting business, having worked in the childcare industry for more than 10 years.

It is believed her sister Taryn Clarke also lived in the Byron Bay area and had worked at Sky Dive Australia's Byron Bay business.


For Alana:

Claire Veronica Ryan: The light just oozes from you. The brightest person I knew. You lived, with every bit of you, you lived to the fullest. Experiences over possessions, something we can all learn from. My darling girl.

Sarah Crawford: I am just in complete shock that such a terrible thing could happen to such a wonderful person xx.

Nathan Gough: Took Dawn for a jump this morning, blowing kisses under canopy for Alana Clarke and Michael Vaughan.

For Michael:

Adrian Theuma: Hey, mate, think of you and your family - you were truly one of the goods guys in this world! You will be missed by all but always remembered in the highest regards. Fly free, my friend.

Taya Smith: It has been a lifetime since I had the privilege of sharing the skies with Michael Vaughan. A great teacher, mentor, inspiration, team mate, friend, absolute legend. The world has lost a true gem. Thank you for the honour and the memories. Fly free, my friend xxx.

Robin Morris: Such a huge talent with all the time in the world for ANYONE who wanted to learn. He didn't "touch" peoples' lives - he branded them! Leaving them with a feeing of "wow, that's what it means to be a skydiver".

Jack Stoink: The most gentle of men, with a constant twinkle in his eye and a wicked sense of humour. RIP MV.

Dani Lavis: I'm sorry to hear that. I had have been ... praying for a recovery. Thoughts are with both families.

Ruthie Prosser: Horrific, so sad and sorry for everyone involved. My heart goes out to you all.

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