A PARACHUTIST who fell to his death in Cockerham as families enjoyed the village’s annual gala has been named by police.
Lee Arthur Clifford, 40, died after he fell to the ground in a field close to Main Street, Cockerham, at 1.52pm on Saturday.
The dad-of-three, from St Helens, Merseyside, was pronounced dead at the scene and a post-mortem examination is due to be carried out to determine the cause of his death.
It happened as scores of people were enjoying the annual Cockerham Gala nearby but the parachutist was not part of the event.
He had flown up for the jump from the nearby Black Knight Parachute Centre.
Retired paramedic Chris Tomlin, 56, said he was standing in his back garden, which is about 500m from the field, when he realised the man was in trouble.
He said: “The parachutist left the aircraft. He deployed his chute and it was tangled.
“He tried to cover the procedure to untangle the chute and he was over Cockerham church when he must have realised how close to the ground he was.
“He cut away the main chute and deployed his emergency chute but it looks like he was too close to the ground.
“Me and my partner were rooted to the spot and I said to her: ‘This guy’s in trouble’, but then I jumped in my car and went straight down.
“When we got there you could see by his injuries that he was badly hurt. I tended to him and held his head.
“The air ambulance came straight in and landed.
“It’s awful. There was nothing I could do for him.”
Mr Tomlin said weather conditions were ideal for a parachute jump and lots of people jumped earlier in the day without any problems.
He added: “It’s just an accident, pure and simple. It’s terrible.
“As long as there was somebody there with him as he was breathing his last, that’s something.”
The Black Knight Parachute Centre, which is affiliated to the British Parachute Association (BPA), has been operating since 1964 and is one of the longest-established parachute training centres in the UK, according to its website.
A spokesman said: “A BPA board of inquiry will be investigating the accident and when complete will submit the reports to the coroner, and any other relevant information.
“The report will include the board’s conclusion and, if appropriate, make recommendations.”