Skydiver, grandfather dies after slamming into the ground during high school football pre-game show

A skydiver performing before the start of a Tennessee high school football game on Friday evening has tragically died.

The deceased man, identified by one media organization as Richard Sheffield, 55, was entertaining football fans reportedly as part of a professional skydiving troupe at the annual Musket Bowl at David Crocket High School in Jonesborough, Tenn., when he slammed into the field during an attempted landing.

The catastrophe that occurred during pre-game ceremonies to the horror of spectators in attendance is under investigation by authorities, and more details will likely be forthcoming. The game was played despite the tragedy, according to WJHL.

“Somehow, a skydiver’s pre-game descent onto the field went wrong, and he later died of his injuries after being flown to a nearby hospital, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office,” ABC Chattanooga affiliate WTVC, News Channel 9, reported on Saturday.

A devoted family man, Sheffield was a married father and grandfather.

“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,” he added. “I’m so thankful for the relationship we had. We talked every single day, multiple times a day.”

A moment of silence was held at the field; the game against the team from nearby Daniel Boone high school did kick off that evening after about a 45-minute delay.

Jerry Boyd, the Washington County, Tennessee director of schools, issued a statement about the tragedy that took the life of the experienced skydiver.

On behalf of David Crockett High School, Daniel Boone High School, and the rest of the Washington County Schools community, we are saddened by the tragic incident that occurred prior to the start of Friday night’s football game at the David Crockett High School football stadium. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family of the injured skydiver that has passed away. We ask that everyone keep the family in their thoughts and prayers as they deal with the loss of a beloved husband, father, and grandfather.


Boyd separately explained that “It was determined the impact on the whole community and that witnessed and experienced the situation to try to introduce some sense of normal that we began the night as [is],” Johnson City, Tenn., WJHL reported.

Mental health counselors will also present at both schools on Monday.

“At past Musket Bowl games, skydivers are part of the pre-game activities. The skydiver was skydiving through Jump TN, a company in Greeneville, Tennessee,” WJHL added. “They said he had completed over 1500 jumps. ‘The deceased was a highly experienced jumper with decades of experience to their credit and a well-respected member of the skydiving community.’ said Jump TN. ‘The entire skydiving community is saddened by the sudden loss of a wonderful member of their community.'”

According to the Unite States Parachute Association, there were only  10 fatal skydiving accidents in the year 2021, “the lowest year on record.”

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