The woman who died in a skydiving accident at Auckland’s Muriwai Beach had recorded more than 200 jumps and was preparing for a New Zealand skydiving record attempt next month.
British national Sarah-Jane Bayram died on Thursday evening after a mid-air collision during a group jump sent her spiralling into the ocean a kilometre out to sea.
Two local surfers attempted a dramatic rescue on a jetski but she could not be revived and died on the beach after being brought back to shore.
Bayram was a member of the New Zealand Parachute Federation and had recorded a personal skydiving milestone last year over Waiheke Island with Parakai-based Skydive Auckland.
“First ever jump onto Waiheke Island, my 200th jump,” Bayram told the Helensville News at the time.
“So well timed getting to jump it at Waiheke. Amazing!”
Good friend and fellow skydiver Lisa Chambers said Bayram – who worked at the University of Auckland – helped set a New Zealand women’s sequential skydiving record in June last year.
Bayram was also planning to take part in another New Zealand record attempt next month – the most female jumpers in formation. The current New Zealand record is 16, but 17 jumpers planned to topple the record in April.
Chambers said the event would still proceed.
“It will be dedicated to SJ.”
Bayram moved to New Zealand from the UK some years ago and had been ticking off items on an adventure “bucket list”, which is how she got into skydiving, Chambers told the Herald.
“She was very quirky – piercings, tattoos and coloured hair. Always a huge smile. She had this great dry sense of humour. She was incredibly funny. She really loved skydiving and was a brilliant person inside and out.”
Chambers said Thursday evening’s jump was the first in a weekend skydiving event dubbed “the Mad King Boogie”, which was being run by Skydive Auckland.
Bayram’s death had rocked the close-knit skydiving community, many of whom witnessed the event because they were either on the jump or on the beach in the drop zone.
Chambers described the tragedy as “absolutely devastating”.
“Our sport is about fun and having an amazing time with your friends so when something like this happens it’s distinctly different from what you expect.
“The community is hurting for sure. It’s obviously heartbreaking and so tragic.”
Chambers had spoken to friends who were on the fateful jump but did not know what had caused things to go wrong. That would be subject to investigation.
The skydiving community was extremely safety-conscious and strived to avoid accidents, Chambers said.
“We do all we can to ensure [safety] so it’s really sad.”
In a tribute post to Bayram on Facebook, Chambers wrote that her friend’s quirky, infectious, adventure-driven attitude is what drew them together.
“You had such an enormous heart, loved the simple things in life but your passion for skydiving was huge.
“With your big smile you would freefall and love every second of it. NZ skies will not be the same without you. But your spirit will always fly with us there! Poroporoaki my dear sweet friend, I will keep your spirit alive in all my adventures, promise!”
The New Zealand Parachute Federation has paid tribute to Bayram in a social media post.
“It is with heaviest of hearts that we lost our sky sister Sarah-Jane Bayram in a tragic accident on Thursday last week. Our thoughts and support go out to all her family and friends, of which there were many. SJ touched the hearts of so many skydivers and she will be incredibly missed.
“SJ was a Participating Member with the NZPF for last couple of years. She came to our meetings every month and beavered away in the background designing posters and graphics for our social media and website.
“She never wanted much recognition for her contribution, she just wanted to help.
SJ, you were one of kind.”
Federation described Bayram as a true lady and a sparkling gem.
“Thank you for everything. Fly free sky sister xx.”
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In a statement, the University of Auckland said it was shocked and deeply saddened by news of Bayram’s death.
“Sarah-Jane was a long serving and highly respected colleague and friend in our Property Services Team. She will be sadly missed.”
Heroic efforts were made to save Bayram after she was knocked out in a collision with another skydiver in mid-air just before sunset on Thursday.
Bayram was part of a group of experienced skydivers performing a nine-way formation when two of them collided during freefall.
Another participant managed to deploy Bayram’s parachute as she was unconscious, according to Skydive Auckland.
It appears she was then blown out to sea, landing in the water around 1km from shore.
Two surfers who spotted she was in trouble headed out on a jetski to save her, but found her in with only her helmet still above water.
Steve Morpeth and Dylan Wallis spent 15 minutes giving Bayram CPR on their jetski, not realising the damage she had already suffered in the collision.
They were joined by two surf lifesavers who brought her back to land. Paramedics continued with CPR but she died at the scene.
The second person involved in the collision, a man in his 20s, suffered moderate injuries and was taken to Auckland Hospital by helicopter.
WorkSafe and the Civil Aviation Authority have been notified. A CAA spokesperson said they will be assigning an investigator.
The matter will be referred to the coroner.
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