The family and friends of an experienced Scottish skydiver killed in an accident in Thailand say he died “doing what he loved”.
Jim McConnell, 69, landed in a reservoir north of the resort town of Pattaya after embarking on a skydive on Thursday.
An official and friend at the skydiving centre he jumped with said he is “99 per cent certain” Mr McConnell had a heart attack or stroke shortly after leaving the plane, causing him to lose some level of consciousness.
He also described Mr McConnell, who had lived in Thailand for 19 years, as a “lovely” and “unassuming” man who was a competent skydiver.
In a Facebook posting, Mr McConnell’s son Mark, 41, wrote: “It is with a heavy heart I have to tell that my dad Jim McConnell has sadly passed away. All of you who knew my Dad will know he went the way he wanted and no-one should feel sad, fly free my hero.”
Harry Hongjindapong, a spokesman for Thai Sky Adventures, said witness accounts and video evidence suggest the Scot, from Dunbartonshire, suffered “a medical event” at around 5000ft, causing him to drift on to his back.
He said he managed to deploy his reserve parachute late on in the descent, but believes he was only semi- conscious at that point.
He said: “He was an experienced skydiver, he’d been jumping for many years, nearly 1500 jumps.
“Watching the videos he just rolled on to his back and started spinning. If he was in control of his faculties then he would have regained stability within half a second.
“This sort of thing doesn’t happen to an experienced skydiver unless they’ve lost control over their physical ability.”
He described the Scot – who had made 1458 dives – as “just a lovely man” and added: “I’ve known him for several years now and he was a regular at the centre. He was a very unassuming character, very competent and I would have every faith in his ability.
“At the end of the day, he died with his boots on. He was doing what he loved doing.”
Mr Hongjindapong said CPR was carried out after the pensioner, who had worked in the oil industry, was recovered from the reservoir but it is thought he was not breathing when he entered the water.
He said: “As far as we’re concerned, this wasn’t a skydiving accident, it was a medical event that unfortunately happened while he was skydiving.”
Colonel Chonnapat Nawalak of Nong Kham police in Chonburi said: “We’re still checking the cause of his death. We have to check whether he died from the jumping or from drowning.”