An experienced skydiver died as spectators watched in horror Friday when his stunt before the kickoff of a Tennessee high school football game went tragically awry.
Richard Sheffield, 55, was part of a team of professional skydiving performers who jumped out of a plane before the “Musket Bowl,” an annual rivalry between David Crockett and Daniel Boone high schools in eastern Tennessee. Horrified onlookers witnessed Sheffield plunging to the ground behind the stadium. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“The deceased was a highly experienced jumper with decades of experience to their credit and a well-respected member of the skydiving community,” Jump TN, the Greenville-based skydiving team to which Sheffield belonged, said in a statement to USA Today. “The entire skydiving community is saddened by the sudden loss of a wonderful member of their community.”
Sheffield had completed more than 1,500 jumps, the group said. His parachute did open but apparently malfunctioned as he attempted a stunt leading. Witnesses said Sheffield hit the ground at an unsafe speed.
Horrifying moment skydiver, 55, crashes to earth and dies while attempting stunt during high school football pre-game show in Tennessee
— IntoTheMystic (@Mystic_Sailor) October 23, 2022
Home team Crockett has had the skydiving team perform pre-game shows in the past, and Friday night’s game was both Senior Night and the opening of a new field.
“Since it was David Crockett’s new field, it was their first game, [the] first Musket Bowl on their new field,” Daniel Boone sophomore Tyler Smith told WJHL. “So, I guess they were trying to celebrate it.”
The game went on as planned, with Boone winning 35-7 in the 52nd annual clash between the teams. But afterward, the community and Sheffield’s family shared their grief on social media.
“Today just doesn’t feel real, and the hardest day of my life,” Sheffield’s son Stacey wrote on Facebook. “Yesterday we lost one of the most important people in our lives, my Dad. I’m so thankful for the relationship we had. We talked every single day, multiple times a day.”
Stacey, who has a twin brother named Casey, said the boys enjoyed skydiving with their father and began at the tender age of 7.
“Being able to skydive with your Dad is another level of cool,” he wrote. “One thing Dad loved the most was going fast, and that’s how he went out.”
“Until we fly again, Dad. I love you. Blue Skies,” the heartbroken son wrote.
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