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   Largest Diamond formation-world record set by 100 skydivers

[Nov 23]LAKE WALES, Fla. --One hundred skydivers linked together in the sky to form a diamond shape with their parachutes and set a new world record for the largest Diamond formation.

  (enlarge photo)

  "I feel great," said Mike Lewis of Lakeland, who was one of the organizers of the record attempt. Lewis, 53, was the jumper in position 100, completing the diamond as he locked in at the bottom of the formation. "It's been a long road," Lewis said. "We've spent seven years working on this."

   He said the group came close on its first jump before 9 a.m. Wednesday when 96 jumpers got into position. "We knew we were close," he said. On the second jump of the day, shortly before noon, all the skydivers managed to lock their feet into the lines of parachutes below them and grab the canopies below them with their hands.

  The successful formation was confirmed by four judges from the U.S. Parachute Association and broke a previous record of an 85-way formation, according to The Ledger in Lakeland.

   The 100 jumpers were able to join together on a second of two attempts on Wednesday, using their hands and feet to hook up to adjacent parachutes. The skydivers exited five planes flying at staggered altitudes to execute the formation.

  The resulting diamond was about 200-feet-by-200 feet - roughly the size of a 747 jet. Lewis said a formation that large would be visible on radar as far away as Miami. Jumpers exited five planes, which were flying at staggered altitudes of up to 21,000 feet.

   Lewis said the organizers set the goal of a 100-way formation in 2000. At the time, the canopy formation record was a 53-way, which was achieved in Germany in 1996.

    Elation over the record was tempered by the death Tuesday of an Arizona man, who was injured Saturday while practicing for the record attempt.
   A Gilbert sky diver died doing what he loved, after his parachute became tangled during a jump.

   Lewis said Joseph Lambright, 49, spiraled to the ground after his foot became entangled in the cord of another parachute. The other jumper, who released the chute Lambright was tangled in and used his reserve parachute, was not injured.  

   Joseph Lambright, 49, of Gilbert, Ariz., was an experienced skydiver with about 5,000 jumps, according to Betty Hill, who manages the Florida Skydiving Center at the airport.

   "Joe was a great skydiver and a great competitor," said Mike Lewis of Lakeland, one of the organizers of the attempt to set the world record for a canopy formation. "I've known him for 25 years. It's tough."

    Lake Wales firefighter Mike Sykes said Lambright "spiraled out of control" and hit the ground hard off Old Bartow Road, across State Road 60 from the airport.

    Sykes said Lambright was conscious when he was airlifted to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with a ruptured aorta, ruptured spleen, several fractured ribs and other injuries.

    "We're on the edge," Lewis said of skydiving, adding that "it's all a calculated risk." He said people could just as easily be injured in their car going to work.

    The United States Parachute Association reported 21 parachuting deaths in 2006 and 27 in 2005. In 2005, the USPA said there were an estimated 2.2 million jumps made in the U.S.

    On the Net:
    U.S. Parachute Association:

    2005 Camopy formation world record

    Related world records:
    Largest skydiving during a Solar Eclipse
    Largest Freefalling Sky Dive Cross

    Longest Skydive Jump

    Skydiving after heart surgery

    Youngest Skydiver-Valentina Nicolau

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