Tiffin Man Dies in South Pole Skydive

A rural Tiffin man, 43-year-old Ray Miller Jr., was one of three people killed Sunday [7 December 1997] while attempting a skydive at the South Pole. Their chutes failed to open properly, sending them plummeting to the ice.

The victims were among six skydivers on a jump organized by Adventure Network International, which has been flying tourists to the South Pole since 1988.

All the jumpers were men, Michael McDowell of Adventure Network said.

Miller's wife, Brenda, said her husband was a veteran skydiver who had made a 1994 jump over the North Pole.

A 36-year-old Seattle resident, Steve Mulholland, and an Austrian, Hans Rusack, 49, also were killed.

Mulholland was a former employee of Antarctic Support Associates, the civilian contractor that supplies and staffs U.S. Antarctic bases, and was one of the organizers of the South Pole skydiving trip.

"It was just a skydive. For him that's a walk in the park. He jumps off 300-foot objects. This was nothing I even worried about," Mulholland's girlfriend, Beth Melius, told Seattle's KIRO Television.

The six jumped from a Twin Otter aircraft at about 8,500 feet, McDowell said.

They died during what was promoted as the first private skydiving jump ever made at the South Pole, near Amundsen-Scott station. The chutes of two of the jumpers did not open, and the third parachute did not open completely.

Three companions -- an American and two Norwegians making what was billed as the South Pole's first tandem jump -- landed without incident.

The company was still trying to determine what went wrong, McDowell said.

"The three guys were very experienced, with many hundreds of jumps each, skydived all round the world and at the North Pole," so they knew about cold-weather jumping, McDowell said.

Adventure Network International, which has offices in Punta Arenas, Chile, and Beaconsfield, England, flew the bodies and survivors out later Sunday to its base camp at Patriot Hills on the South American side of Antarctica.

The bodies were brought Monday to Punta Arenas, a city 2,200 miles south of Santiago. The bodies would be sent home as soon as possible, officials said.

The above article appeared in the 9 December 1997 edition of the Findlay (Ohio) Courier; until recently it was online.