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June 8, 2012
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Sheriff's office: Wind contributed to Lake Tahoe skydiver's death

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office has finished its investigation into a skydiving accident that killed a South Lake Tahoe man in late May, but the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to conclude its inquiry.

Robert Ranieri III, 28, was one of three skydivers who jumped from a helicopter about 8:30 a.m. May 22 and planned on landing near Camp Richardson.

Offshore winds picked up as the trio exited the helicopter and prevented the group from reaching its intended landing site, said Lt. Pete Van Arnum. Ranieri was the last one out of the helicopter and was the farthest away from the shore when he jumped, Van Arnum said. At least two of the skydivers landed in Lake Tahoe’s frigid waters.

An autopsy found that Ranieri drowned after landing in the lake near Camp Richardson. His body was found in about 15 feet of water about 10:45 a.m., according to the Sheriff’s Office. The other members of the group were unharmed.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators have examined the skydivers’ parachutes, but have yet to wrap up their probe, agency spokesman Ian Gregor said during a phone interview last week.

The agency’s involvement in investigating skydiving accidents is fairly limited, Gregor added.

“We’re investigating to see whether the skydivers’ parachutes were properly packed by the appropriate person,” Gregor said in a follow-up email. “We have examined the chutes but have not completed our investigation.”

Video from a camera mounted on Ranieri’s helmet shows his parachute functioning properly, Van Arnum said.

“You can see the chute is fully deployed with no problem,” Van Arnum said.

It is unknown how long FAA’s investigation will take to conclude, Gregor said.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jun 8, 2012 03:53PM Published Jun 8, 2012 03:52PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.