Dad killed in terror plunge

St Michael's Church, Cockerham

St Michael's Church, Cockerham

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WITNESSES have described their horror after a 40-year-old father-of-three was killed in a terrifying parachute accident.

Lee Clifford, from St Helens, Merseyside, was pronounced dead at the scene after crashing to the ground in a field close to St Michael’s Church, Cockerham, near Pilling.

A joint investigation into what happened is being carried out by Lancashire Police and the British Parachute Association.

Emergency services were called to the scene at shortly before 2pm on Saturday.

Police said a post-mortem examination is due to be carried out to establish the exact cause of death.

Eyewitness Chris Tomlin, 56, said he tended to the man after he saw him hit the ground.

The retired paramedic said the parachutist was jumping as part of the Cockerham Gala which takes place in the village every year.

He watched from his back garden, which is about 500m from the field, and saw that the man was in trouble.

He said: “The parachutist left the aircraft. He deployed his chute and it was tangled.

“He tried to cover the procedure to untangle the chute and he was over Cockerham church when he must have realised how close to the ground he was.

“He cut away the main chute and deployed his emergency chute but it looks like he was too close to the ground.”

Mr Tomlin said about 300 people live in the village and many would have been enjoying the gala.

He said: “Me and my partner were rooted to the spot and I said to her: ‘This guy’s in trouble’, but then I jumped in my car and went straight down.

“When we got there you could see by his injuries he was badly hurt. I tended to him and held his head. There was nothing I could do for him.”

Gala organiser Lorraine Lawson, secretary of the Cockerham Sports Day committee, said: “I send my deepest condolences to his family.”

A spokesman from the Black Knights Parachute Centre in Cockerham, said: “A BPA board of inquiry will be investigating the accident and when complete will submit the reports to the coroner, and any other relevant information.”