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By BOB WHITE
ELIZABETHTOWN — A highly experienced parachutist from Shepherdsville died Saturday after a jump at Elizabethtown’s Addington Field in what airport staff describe as a hard landing.
According to Hardin County EMS, 46-year-old Ford auto worker Paul Robards suffered injuries during a jump at the airport shortly before 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
He was transported by helicopter to University Hospital in Louisville where he was pronounced dead by the Jefferson County coroner’s office. The official cause of death is pending results of an autopsy.
It was the second errant landing in as many weeks with Elizabethtown-based parachute center Skydive Kentucky.
Addington Field manager Roger Lawson said Robards hit the ground hard and fast, making some wonder if he’d had a medical problem which might have left him incapacitated. Results of Robards’ autopsy should be available this week, according to the Jefferson County coroner’s office.
“He was flying around with a group, the canopy opened and he went straight into the ground,” Lawson said. “He was probably doing 30-35 mph when he hit.”
Lawson described it as a “freak thing” for the sky diving group and the parachutist who reportedly had thousands of jumps under his belt.
“They run a real good operation,” Lawson said. “It’s odd they’ve had two incidents back to back like this.”
Federal Aviation Administration officials were at Addington Field investigating the incident Monday.
The jumper who was injured during a hard landing the last weekend in June suffered a broken leg and was transported to University Hospital in Louisville via air ambulance.
Representatives from Skydive Kentucky did not return phone calls Monday.
The center has been based in Elizabethtown for about a year since its move from Nelson County, just outside Bardstown. It left there after losing its lease to a property at the intersection of Airport Road and U.S. 62, a property not part of the Bardstown-Nelson County Airport. That property is under industrial development.
Two years ago, Louisville parachutist Kevin Benningfield, 34, was killed during a mid-air collision with another jumper when landing at Greene County Sport Parachute Center’s grass strip at the Nelson County parachute center.
Benningfield was an avid jumper who had experienced a near fatal crash several years before, but would not give up the sport.
Fellow jumper Mike Fox said Benningfield died doing what he loved.
“He’d come out in a wheelchair and tell people he’d be jumping again in six months,” Fox said of Benningfield. “He loved it.”
Fox said other skydiving enthusiasts were of similar mindset as Benningfield.
Lawson described Skydive Kentucky as “good neighbors” who operate the extreme business in a professional manner.
Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.