Parachuter falls to death |

Parachuter falls to death

An Old Snowmass man nationally renowned for his skydiving expertise was killed Saturday in a parachuting accident on the eastern plains.Joel Zane, 52, was a member of the Wild Humans, a top aerial team that performs elaborate parachute stunts. Fellow skydiver Scott Fiore, 37, of Centennial, was also killed in the accident.Zane and Fiore had tethered themselves together after opening their parachutes during a demonstration at Brush Municipal Airport. The two tried to disengage as they fell, but their chutes became entangled. The accident happened around 6:30 p.m., during the pair’s final jump of the day.Fiore was pronounced dead at the scene, and Zane was airlifted to North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, where he died during surgery just after 11:30.Laurie Shipe-Zane said her husband was awake and able to talk after the crash, but was suffering from massive internal injuries. She was not at the scene of the accident.”He was one of those guys that is very accomplished at anything he does, and he does it to the point of where it’s always done incredibly well,” said Shipe-Zane, Joel’s wife for more than two years. “He died doing what he loved. Nobody is shocked that it happened that way, it’s just too soon.”The Wild Humans are known internationally for competing in “canopy-relative work,” where skydivers jump, open their parachutes and then form formations such as pyramids. Zane and Fiore took part in a world record-breaking jump in Florida, where 70 people stacked their parachutes over Lake Wales, Fla., in 2002.Shipe-Zane said her husband did everything by the book, and she didn’t consider him a risk taker. Zane was licensed as a “rigger,” someone who would professionally repack reserve parachutes.”I always had the highest respect for him,” said Dick Jackson, owner of Aspen Expeditions, a paragliding outfitter. “He used to jump off the hill with a parachute instead of a paraglider. They’re very different activities, but the consequences are the same since gravity is gravity.”Zane had lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since the mid-’70s, his wife said, having moved here from his hometown of Tulsa, Okla. He set up a parachuting operation in Rifle, and would instruct newcomers and take people on tandem jumps.Zane was also a volunteer firefighter and EMT for a number of years with the Basalt Rural Fire Protection District before retiring. Additionally, he was owner of Creative Concepts, a cabinetry shop.”He did high-end, beautiful cabinets for the last 20 years,” Shipe-Zane said. “A lot of houses around here have his work in them.”Snowmass resident Eric Hansen met Zane in the ’80s and they became friends in the cabinetry business.”At that time his shop was at the Glenwood airport, and he rented a hangar there and went skydiving regularly out [there],” Hansen said.Zane had two planes at the time – one in Glenwood Springs and another he kept at Rifle to do jumps with friends. “It had to be a freak accident – he didn’t make mistakes,” Hansen said.Scott Chew, an early member of the Wild Humans, said in Monday’s Denver Post that Saturday’s demonstration was nothing out the ordinary for Zane and Fiore.”They were some of the best in the whole country, even in the world,” he said.Zane was recently getting a lot of work at various events and was regularly asked to drop into a location while carrying an enormous American flag, Jackson said. He’d also do a number of air shows each year.”More and more stunt work involves close contact and linking up – it’s obviously unforgiving if you get tangled,” Jackson said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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