James Smith
James Smith (left) died Sunday in a skydiving accident in Nanoose Bay (photo courtesy Gord Gauvin)

A local man who died early Sunday evening in a skydiving accident near Nanoose Bay has been identified as a professional skydiver with advanced certification, according to a colleague and friend.

James Smith had reached “C” Certificate of Proficiency with the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association (CSPA), according to Gord Gauvin, owner/operator of Skydive Vancouver Island.

“He had easily performed over 1,000 skydives,” Gauvin said in a phone call with Victoria Buzz.

Earlier, Gauvin wrote in a statement that Smith died after impacting the ground while performing an advanced high speed maneuver called “swooping.”

The technique involves deploying a parachute with a rapid descent, then flying close to the ground at high speeds and long distances.

Gauvin says the maneuver is “high risk” and said that equipment failures likely did not contribute to the tragedy.

That assessment matches the initial findings of government agencies, according to Oceanside RCMP spokesperson Cst. Chris Manseau.

Manseau says that Transport Canada found no issues with the plane involved in the accident, and RCMP investigators concluded there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

He also added that WorkSafeBC would not be investigating the accident since Smith’s skydive was recreational.

Manseau says that the BC Coroners Service and the CSPA will continue to investigate.

Meanwhile, Gauvin says that Smith’s death has sent shockwaves through the skydiving community.

“We’re a small, tight-knit community,” he said. “There’s around 50 or 60 professional skydivers on the island, [Smith] knew 90 per cent of them.”

That community also includes Smith’s stepbrother, who Gauvin says owns and operates a skydiving centre in the Okanagan Valley.

“It becomes a bit of a lifestyle,” he said.

Gauvin says that members of the community are meeting with grief counselors as they come to terms with the loss of a dear friend. His company is also making one-on-one counseling available to his employees.

Smith, a married father of two children, owned a carpentry business on the Island. He was 34 years old at the time of his death.