But Steve Boyd, president and chief executive officer of the Rosharon-based business, is insistent that the seven fatalities out of nearly 1 million jumps are not indicative of a company problem.
An attorney for the family of Rex Williams, a 59-year-old man who plunged to his death in 2008, says Boyd is wrong.
The attorney said in opening arguments of a civil lawsuit in Brazoria County District Court on Monday that the company showed gross negligence on the day that Williams, a skydiving student, became unstable and tumbled out of control under the supervision of an instructor.
Williams, of Tacoma, Wash., failed to independently release his parachute before he hit the ground at 120 miles per hour.
"The only reason we have a student fatality up to this point is because he didn't activate the parachute," Boyd said.
Other deaths were a result of errors, when divers have collided or failed to pull parachutes in time, he said. Those deaths did not involve student divers, he said.
The first death at the Skydive Spaceland facility, which opened in 1999, came in 2007, when employee Scott Bell's parachute malfunctioned. Bell, 35, had waited until he was too low to the ground to deploy his parachute, so the emergency parachute was not able to deploy and open in time, Boyd said.
Two divers died last year when Scott James, 27, of Houston and Arthur Bill, 63, of Spring, collided and their parachutes became entangled.
Other deaths at the facility were a result of divers with deployed parachutes attempting high-performance maneuvers known as "canopy swoops" before landing.
Boyd said the company's safety record was clear, especially with students. About 100,000 student divers have been taught by the company.
Gaines West, lead attorney for Williams' family, argued in his opening remarks that the company's instructor, Alex O'Connor, should have intervened to help Williams deploy his parachute.
Judge Ed Denman did not allow video or audio evidence during opening statements Monday and had not decided whether he would admit that evidence during trial.
Not his first jump
Lee McMillian, an attorney for Skydive Spaceland, said Williams had received several training lessons and had completed independent dives as a student prior to losing control on the day he died.
"There is only so much you can do," McMillian said. "In the end, you have to pull these handles yourself."
Call The Leon Law Firm at 281-980-4529 with any questions .