A 23-year-old Georgia Tech student and seasoned skydiver who died after his parachute malfunctioned was filming his roommate’s first-ever jump when the accident happened.
Polk County Deputy Coroner Tony Brazier said Olen Reid Ashe III’s primary parachute malfunctioned on Saturday and he was unable to deploy his emergency chute in time to slow his fall. Brazier pronounced Ashe dead at the scene from massive external and internal injuries.
Ashe, his roommate, Robert Tillman of Atlanta, and two other friends were skydiving at Skydive The Farm, a 55-acre private farm.
The jump was Ashe’s third of the day and 299th of his skydiving career. His father, after whom he was named, said the younger Ashe hoped to make his 300th jump this past weekend.
“He was just a good kid who enjoyed his friendships and his sports and was having a really good summer,” said his father, Olen Reid Ashe, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Media General Inc., based in Richmond, Va. He also was the publisher of the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle from 1987 to 1996.
Farm owner Hans Paulsen, who jumped with one of Ashe’s friends, reported seeing the Tech student spinning out of control after releasing his primary chute. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Ashe detached the malfunctioning chute and released the reserve one less than 200 feet from the ground, not high enough to avoid crashing into the ground.
Brazier told The Associated Press on Monday that the video camera was attached to Ashe’s helmet and was in no way a distraction to Ashe operating the parachutes. Brazier said he turned over the helmet camera to the Polk County Police Department for the investigation.
Ashe was an industrial engineering major who took up skydiving his freshman year and was once a member of the Georgia Tech Sport Parachute Club.
His death comes more than a year after he lost a friend in a skydiving related tragedy, his parents said. To work through his grief, Ashe took off a semester from Tech and began working for the Cherokee Outdoor YMCA as a climbing instructor.