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FAA may fine California skydiving instructor over harness incident

Published: Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 9:00 a.m. CDT

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MODESTO, Calif. (MCT) — The Federal Aviation Administration proposes fining a skydiving instructor $2,200, claiming he did not properly secure his student’s harness before the two tumbled from a plane at 13,000 feet above Earth.

But the student — an 81-year-old Oakdale, Calif., widow and retired cannery worker who became an overnight sensation when the video of her nearly falling out her harness was posted on YouTube — thinks that’s not right.

“I’m not going to complain about him,” Laverne Everett said Sunday. “He saved my life. I cannot say and will not say anything against him.”

Everett made the harrowing jump May 2011 at The Parachute Center at the Lodi Airport to celebrate her 80th birthday. She and her instructor landed safely. That probably would have been the end of the story, but not in the age of social media and the Internet.

Several months ago, one of Everett’s cousins posted the video of her jump on YouTube. Within days, the video had gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of views. News websites for ABC, NBC and CBS posted the video.

Everett even appeared on NBC’s “Today” show, where she was interviewed by co-host Matt Lauer.

But the video brought another kind of attention. The FAA investigated and on Sept. 19 issued what it calls a Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty against skydiving instructor Dennis J. McGlynn.

The notice says because McGlynn failed to securely fit the harness to Everett he “increased the likelihood that the student parachutist would slip from the harness and free-fall to the ground.”

The video shows Everett hanging out of her harness, with the leg straps around her calves and the other straps at or near the back of her neck.

McGlynn could not be reached Sunday.

But Parachute Center owner Bill Dause said Everett landed safely, had a great time, and the media have blown the incident way out of proportion. He also faulted federal regulators.

“The FAA is just ridiculous,” he said. “This is absolutely ridiculous.”

Dause said McGlynn and the other skydiving instructors at The Parachute Center are independent contractors and are not employees of his business.

McGlynn has 30 days from the receipt of the notice to meet with an FAA attorney and submit information for the FAA’s consideration. He also can pay the $2,200 penalty.

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