Skydivers killed in mid-air collision in US identified as Briton and German

After joining nearly 200 skydivers on a group jump, skydiver Martial Ferre, of France, talks about the jump that killed two skydivers after they collided in midair during a jump from Skydive Arizona at Eloy Municipal Airport, on Wednesday, on Dec 4,
After joining nearly 200 skydivers on a group jump, skydiver Martial Ferre, of France, talks about the jump that killed two skydivers after they collided in midair during a jump from Skydive Arizona at Eloy Municipal Airport, on Wednesday, on Dec 4, 2013, in Eloy, Arizona. -- PHOTO: AP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - US police on Wednesday identified two skydivers who died after colliding in mid-air during a record parachute jump attempt as a Briton and a German, both described as "highly experienced."

The dead men, taking part in a jump on Tuesday involving some 200 people in Arizona, were named as Briton Keiron O'Rourke, 40, and Bernd Schmehl, 51, of Germany.

Their parachute canopies collapsed when they collided as they floated down less than 91 metres from the ground, said police in Eloy, southeast of Phoenix.

The German died at the scene, while Mr O'Rourke was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital after the accident at the Skydive Arizona event.

"Witnesses reported the two skydivers collided in mid-air...at which time their canopies collapsed and both fell to the ground," said an Eloy Police Department statement.

Another jumper was injured in an incident unrelated to the mid-air collision. "There were early reports that the mid-air collision involved three skydivers," said the police statement.

"Investigators have determined there was a third skydiver injured. However, the injury was not related to or caused by the mid-air collision between the other two skydivers."

Skydive Arizona released a statement calling the two dead men "highly experienced skydivers" and said they were participating in an "invitational 200-skydiver record attempt." The other injured skydiver had "a hard landing and suffered a back injury," it said.

"There were no problems related to aircraft or equipment. Weather conditions were good and the accidents occurred on the fifth group jump of the day," added the statement, emailed to AFP.

Mr Schmehl had made more than 1,700 jumps including 80 in the last six months, while the Briton had jumped nearly 850 times, including 100 in the last half a year, according to the police.