Skydiving crash kills small-town mayor

March 26, 2011 at 2:02 AM

CROSS KEYS, Pa., March 26 (UPI) -- A skydiving enthusiast who served as mayor of a small town in the Philadelphia suburbs was killed when his parachute failed to open.

Scott Shields, a lawyer who had been mayor of Rutledge, Pa., since 2006, died Friday afternoon at Free Fall Adventures in Cross Keys, N.J., the Delaware County Times reported.

Mark Kruse, an instructor at Free Fall, said Shields had made more than 100 jumps there and was skydiving under perfect conditions. He told the newspaper Shields may have lost consciousness, since he did not pull the cords for the main or backup chutes.

The backup chute failed to open completely when it was actively deployed.

"The automatic opener fires at about 750 feet -- it's your last chance," Kruse said. "His deployed but it didn't open all the way, which can happen if you are tumbling."

Tumbling can happen when skydivers are incapable of controlling their fall, Kruse said.

The 45-year-old Shields was a graduate of Widener Law School and practiced personal injury law. He was known as a conservative believer in small government.

Rutledge is a tiny borough 10 miles west of Philadelphia with a population of about 860 and an area of one-tenth of a square mile.

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