‘He was a wonderful man': Grieving widow of skydiver killed in parachute crash pays tribute to husband

September 24, 2012 | by | 0 Comments

The widow of one of Britain’s top wine merchants led tributes to him today as skydiving investigators launched a probe into the parachute crash that killed him.

Patrick Sandeman, 53, fell to his death after his parachute became tangled with another jumper just 50 ft above the ground at Sibson Aerodrome, near Peterborough, Cambs., on Saturday afternoon.

The impact was enough to make both canopies collapse sending the jumpers plummeting to the ground, killing Mr Sandeman on impact.

Patrick Sandeman on a previous jump. He fell to his death after his parachute became tangled with another skydiver 50ft above the ground

Patrick Sandeman on a previous jump. He fell to his death after his parachute became tangled with another skydiver 50ft above the ground

A 28-year-old French man – named locally as Matt Le Berre – was still being treated in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, for broken legs and a jarred spine.

Medics said his life had only been saved because he incredibly managed to land on his feet, forcing his legs to take the force of the impact.

Mr Sandeman – the co-owner of successful Lea and Sandeman’s wine merchants – was described as “wonderful” by his grieving family.

Speaking at the family home in Putney, his wife Katie Sandeman, 52, said: “He was a wonderful man and a wonderful family man.”

Tributes were also paid from the world of wine connoisseurs.

Well-known wine-critic and friend, Jancis Robinson said: “I am not alone in having found Patrick one of the most appealing and entertaining characters in the wine business.

Mr Sandeman with fellow skydivers. He was killed on impact while the 28-year-old Frenchman he collided with was seriously injured

Mr Sandeman with fellow skydivers. He was killed on impact while the 28-year-old Frenchman he collided with was seriously injured

Mr Sandeman, 53, poses with a friend on a motorbike. His wife paid tribute to a 'wonderful family man'

Mr Sandeman, 53, poses with a friend on a motorbike. His wife paid tribute to a ‘wonderful family man’

She added that he was “devastatingly handsome but not intimidatingly so. Charming but not oleaginous. Well informed but engaging.

“Great company, in a word – and extremely talented in his ability to hand-pick great wines. A very bright light has been extinguished.”

Another friend and editor of Decanter magazine, Guy Woodward, wrote on Twitter: “Truly terrible news about the death of Patrick Sandeman in a tragic skydiving accident. A great guy and a fantastic wine merchant.”

The British Parachuting Association (BPA) confirmed an investigating panel had been convened following the tragedy on Saturday and hoped to finalise a report within three weeks.

The body has no statutory powers but can make recommendations to police, the coroner and other bodies based on its findings.

Mr Sandeman with a bottle of wine on holiday

Mr Sandeman with a bottle of wine on holiday

A spokesman said: “Both jumpers were very experienced and regularly jumped at Sibson, we believed with each other.”

He added: “We don’t know how their parachutes came to hit each other but it’s like driving – if there is another car on the road there is always the risk of conflict.”

Parachuting coach Jon Dundee, 34, saw the tragedy unfold before his as he waited to leap from the next plane.

He said the types of parachute both jumpers involved in the accident were using meant there was a chance the canopies could collapse if they stopped moving.

Mr Dundee said: “It was a normal number of people jumping, because there is a set load you ca have in the plane, which limits the number of people.

“As far as know it had been a normal jump but parts of their parachute got tangled.

“The type of parachute they were using had to have air passing underneath it to stay inflated.

“It means you have to keep moving all the time or the canopy caves in.

“They were moving when the parachutes hit each other and collapsed and they fell to the ground.

“It was such a terrible shock. It was so sad. They were both experienced jumpers.

“I think they regularly jumped at Sibson with each other.

“I knew Matt quite well, but I didn’t know Pat as well.

“I think Matt lived locally because of how often he jumped.

“They were free jumpers, which means they jump on their own and do stunts and
things in the sky.

“We were on the ground waiting to go in the next plane when it happened.”

He added: “As far as I know it had been a normal jump, but parts of their parachute got tangled. The type of parachute they were using had to have air passing underneath to stay inflated.

“It means you have to keep moving all the time or the canopy caves in.

“They were moving when the parachutes hit each other and collapsed and they
fell to the ground.

“It was such a terrible shock. It was so sad. They were both very experienced jumpers. I think they regularly jumped at Sibson with each other.

“They were free jumpers, jumping on their own and doing stunts and things in the sky.”

Mr Sandeman, a father-of-three, was a hugely respected figure in the wine industry and a member of the Sandeman family of port and sherry fame.

His multi-million pound business, which was named Merchant of the Year several years in succession, was established in 1988 with partner Charles Lea, 55, and has four stores in Chelsea, Kensington, Barnes and Chiswick, west London.

Outside work and his family skydiving was his passion, and Mr Sandeman was regularly seen to posted pictures of himself jumping on Twitter.

Tragically on July 25, he tweeted: “Blues skies today so am skiving off to go skydiving and my first jumps of the year. Hopefully not my last!”

Sibson Airfield is one of two bases used by UK Parachuting, which runs skydiving courses and organises charity jumps.

Following the death a nearby homeowner, who asked not to be named, said he had been shocked at the number of jumpers he saw in the sky on Saturday.

He said: “I see parachutists from the garden all of the time and there were alot yesterday – alot.

“I couldn’t believe how many I saw in the sky, but they seemed to be coming down very fast.

“I mean the frequency they seemed to be falling out of the sky was very high.

“It felt like there were risks being taken -there were certainly more than normal.

“I don’t want to say anything else, but it’s felt like something that was waiting to happen.”

However, UK Parachuting denied any claims more skydivers than usual had been jumping.
Another neighbour said it was common for hundreds of parachutists to jump on weekend days.

The 33-year-old quality manager, who asked not to be named, said: “There are loads of parachutists on weekends.

“We’ve had them land in our garden before.

“I think they have two planes with a dozen or so people jumping from each plane.

“The planes are going up and down all the time, especially on the weekends.

“They must get through hundreds of jumps a day.”

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