French Pilot Found Guilty of Manslaughter After Skydiver Decapitated by Plane's Wing During Jump

Wingsuit skydiving
Wingsuit skydiving (For representational purposes only) Instagram

A French pilot was found guilty of manslaughter after he decapitated a skydiver with the wing of a plane in 2018.

According to reports from French outlets Le Parisien and BFMTV, the pilot was sentenced to a 12-month suspended sentence Tuesday after previously being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The pilot, named in previous reports as "Alain. C" was also banned from flying for a year.

The Montauban criminal court's ruling came in the case of Nicolas Galy, 40, who was killed during a wingsuit jump in July 2018. Galy, an experienced skydiver and engineer, died just moments after he leapt from the plane.

The Midi-Pyrénées Skydiving School Association, which employed the pilot, was given a fine of about $22,000 by the court, though half of the penalty was suspended, Le Parisien reports.

Galy was Wearing a Jumpsuit, Jumped Off the Aircraft at 14,400 Feet

On July 27, 2018, Galy was the first of two wingsuiters to jump from a single-engine aircraft over Bouloc-en-Quercy, north of Toulouse, in southern France, according to The Times. Both jumpers left the plane at around 14,400 feet.

Within seconds, Alain C's plane caught up with both skydivers around 1,000 feet into their descent. At that point, both skydivers had completed their initial freefall and were gliding with their webbed wingsuits.

It was during that stage of the jump that the left wing and a strut of Alain C's plane hit Galy, decapitating him. Galy's emergency parachute deployed and his headless body drifted down to a field.

Pilot Said Galy Did Not Follow the Expected Course

At previous court hearings, the pilot said he hadn't briefed the eight parachutists and two wingsuiters who were aboard what was his fourth jump flight that day. He also said he'd lost visual contact with the wingsuiters after they jumped and assumed he was clear of them.

"Compared with parachutists who are in free fall, it's more complicated with the wingsuiters who go more in a straight line," Alain C said. "They don't descend much and can be in conflict with the aircraft."

He went on to claim that Galy "did not follow the expected course and should never have been on that course." "It wasn't my responsibility," the pilot said. "I think my flight path made sense. This has been the tragedy of my life but I am not at fault."

Alain C also admitted that his license was not valid at the time of the jump because he'd violated restrictions imposed by an aviation authority in connection with a medical condition. In addition to voluntary manslaughter, he was found guilty of operating without a valid aeronautical license.

Emmanuelle Franck, a lawyer for Galy's family, said there was "a lot of recklessness or negligence" in the case. The president of the court also highlighted a failure of communication between the pilot and the victim.