MOORHEAD, Minn. — An experienced skydiver from Moorhead died while skydiving in Marion, Mont., over the weekend.
Gerald F. Fischer, 81, died Saturday, according to a death notice published in The Forum.
"It was a tragic accident," said Jim Krogh, 69, of West Fargo.
At the time, Krogh was with Fischer and a group of skydivers from Fargo-Moorhead attending the 52nd annual Lost Prairie Boogie, a major skydiving event drawing jumpers from across the globe.
Fischer's parachute had a "hard opening," a malfunction that instantly spreads the canopy, creating a lot of resistance and force on the jumper.
"Skydiving is a dangerous sport that can generally be conducted safely," Krogh said. "Accidents are very rare and getting rarer."
The United States Parachute Association reported 13 skydiving fatalities in 2018 out of roughly 3.3 million jumps. That's the lowest number of fatalities in the sport's history, according to the association.
Krogh doesn't believe Fischer's age or health was a factor in the tragedy. "Gerry was in pretty good shape," he said.
"It was a normal skydive with a bad ending," he said.
Fischer was a member of Skydive Fargo, a club founded in 1967 that operates out of the West Fargo Municipal Airport.
He was part of a group that broke a Minnesota skydiving record for the largest formation of people (12) gripping hands and highest altitude (14,500 feet). Krogh said Fischer also set world records, the most recent being in 2018 for the largest group of jumpers (25) over the age of 70.
In 2015, Skydive Fargo named Fischer, nicknamed "Fish," the Skydiver of the Year. That year Fischer reached a major milestone in his skydiving career, hitting 2,000 skydives.
Krogh said Fischer started jumping in the military as a member of the 101st Airborne Division. Fischer then took up parachuting as a sport in the 1990s, he said, and later fell in love with skydiving.
At the time of his death, Fischer had around 2,550 jumps under his belt, Krogh said.