Scots pensioner who died ‘fell ill’ as he skydived in Thailand

James McConnell, 69, landed in a reservoir after his 
skydive near the Thai resort of Pattaya on Thursday went seriously wrong. Picture: contributed
James McConnell, 69, landed in a reservoir after his skydive near the Thai resort of Pattaya on Thursday went seriously wrong. Picture: contributed
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A Scottish pensioner who died while skydiving in Thailand with friends may have had a heart attack or a stroke in mid-air, according to the company that organised his jump.

James McConnell, 69, landed in a reservoir after his 
skydive near the Thai resort of Pattaya on Thursday went seriously wrong.

Eyewitnesses told staff at the skydiving centre that he had rolled on to his back and started spinning in mid-air shortly after he left the aircraft with a group of others.

Harry Harrison, director of flight operations at Thai Sky Adventures, said he believed it was “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Mr McConnell had had a heart attack or a stroke.

Although Mr McConnell managed to deploy his reserve parachute, he appeared 
unable to steer it as he fell towards the ground. He missed the designated landing spot and landed in water.

Mr Harrison told the BBC: “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that there was a medical issue which is the cause of this incident.

“He was either unconscious or dead at the time he landed. We believe he was not breathing at the time he landed because we got to him within three to four minutes…[and] there was no water in his lungs.”

He added that Mr 
McConnell, who is understood to be from Clydebank, was an experienced skydiver who was a 
“regular” at the centre.

“He was an experienced skydiver, he’d been jumping for many years, nearly 1,500 jumps,” he said.

“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.”

A local police spokesman told one Thai news outlet that officers were still investigating 
whether the pensioner had died “from the jumping or from drowning”.

In a post on Facebook, Mr McConnell’s son Mark McConnell wrote: “It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell my Facebook friends and family that my dad Jim McConnell has sadly passed away.

“The family and I would appreciate privacy at this difficult time.”