Skydiving teacher from Fla. killed in tandem jump

August 8, 2013 in News, Statewide News, Top Stories

By Monica Land

LUMBERTON – Funeral services for a skydiving instructor from Florida killed in a tandem jump this weekend will be held Thursday, Aug. 8 in Elberta, Ala. Fifty-six-year-old James ‘Jimmie’ Horak Jr. died Saturday in a swamp about a mile from the airport in Lumberton, Miss., when his equipment apparently malfunctioned, authorities said.

Jim Horak Jr. (Facebook photo)

Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said a student was also injured, but he could not identify the student but believes the man was not from Mississippi.

Three other skydivers who jumped with them told investigators the equipment appeared to malfunction.

“They said something appeared to be not right. There appeared to be some entanglement with the lines, but I'm not qualified to say what that was or even speculate about it,'' Rigel said.

Federal Aviation Administration inspectors will look at whether the parachutes were properly rigged by a qualified rigger and whether the parachute operation met FAA regulations, but local authorities will investigate the accident and determine probable cause, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email Sunday, the AP reported.

Horak, an instructor for the Emerald Coast Skydiving Center in Elberta was safety-conscious and had made more than 8,000 jumps, his wife, Debbie Horak said.

“Jimmy Horak was the core of our operation!“ officials at Emerald Coast Skydiving said on a social media site. “[We] can't imagine what it will be like without him.”

The sheriff's office was called at 1:40 p.m. Saturday, more than 3 hours after the jump, Rigel said. He said he did not know the reason for the delay.

The owner of a hunting lease for the area found the men, and the student was taken to Forrest General Hospital. A nursing supervisor there said the family had not authorized release of any information about him.

An autopsy was performed on Horak.

“We had to hand-carry him out. We still don't know what the cause of death was or what caused the malfunction,'' Rigel said.

Debbie Horak said she and their three children were waiting for the autopsy results to find out what happened to her husband, a full-time physician's assistant and part-time pilot and skydiving instructor.

“My husband is a very, very skilled skydiver. Very safety-conscious,'' she said. She said he had no medical conditions and described him as healthy. “He liked adventure, but very much a Christian and family man,'' she said.

“Jimmy was first [sic] an formost an outstanding family man in every aspect!” Emerald officials said. “We are all very close the Horak Family. You will not be able to find a finer example of a God Loving, Patriotic solid American family! Our hearts are broken!”