A skydiving instructor killed in a tandem jump with a 14-year-old boy in southern NSW may have tried to protect the youngster as they plunged to the ground.
Tony Rokov, 44, died and the 14-year-old was critically injured after they were caught by a sudden gust of wind and crash landed near Goulburn on Saturday.
The boy was airlifted to the Sydney Children’s Hospital where he is believed to have undergone surgery.
“He is now in a serious but stable condition,” a hospital spokeswoman told AAP on Sunday.
Adrenalin Skydive chief instructor Yaakov Bokay said it looked like his colleague had tried to take the impact first.
The pair’s canopy opened and the jump seemed normal until the wind hit just before the landing and smashed them to the ground, he said.
He said Mr Rokov was a warm and open man who would be hugely missed by friends worldwide.
“Tony was playful and cheeky with his tandem customers. Making them laugh,” Mr Bokay told AAP.
“He looked big and intimidating – like an action figure. But in real life he was gentle and soft-hearted.
“Whenever he came to the drop zone he had a big smile on his face.”
Mr Bokay said his thoughts were with the injured boy as well as Mr Rokov’s wife Samantha and their children.
Mr Rokov spent more than 20 years in the Australian Army, where he ran parachute training programs and was air operations manager for an elite special forces unit.
He trained hundreds of recruits in high risk activities in Australia and overseas, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was also selected to train members of the French Foreign Legion in parachuting before leaving the army in 2013.