The wife of a veteran parachutist who was filming...

ST. LOUIS -- The wife of a veteran parachutist who was filming her husband's attempt to sail between the legs of the Gateway Arch watched in horror as he landed atop the monument and slid more than 600 feet to his death.

Kenneth Swyers, 33, of suburban Overland died Saturday after he parachuted onto the 630-foot Arch and slid down its north leg. Police speculated that Swyers intended to land on top of the stainless steel riverfront monument but his wife, Millie, said Swyers meant only to drop near it.


'He wanted a picture of himself as he came down, getting the Arch in the background while he was under full canopy,' she said.

Witnesses told police that Swyers jumped from a small airplane about 8:45 a.m. and landed atop the Arch. A gust of wind apparently pushed him toward the north leg and his efforts to open a small auxiliary chute failed. Its white cloth merely trailed behind him as he fell.

A veteran parachutist who had made nine successful jumps into nearby Busch Stadium for events such as circuses, used what was described as a highly maneuverable parasail for the fatal jump.


'All I saw was his canopy collapse,' Mrs. Swyers said. 'I thought 'He must be holding onto something up there.' I knew something was wrong, but it didn't hit me until I saw people start running.'

She said Swyers had planned the jump for about two weeks and that his only worry was being arrested for trespassing on the grounds of the national park.

Friends said Swyers was not the type of person to attempt reckless stunts but said with his skill he easily could have avoided striking the Arch.

Police were unsuccessful Sunday in attempts to identify the plane from which Swyers jumped or where it took off.

Swyers had worked at Western Electric Corp. for eight years and assembled electric components, a company spokesman said.

An Ohio couple saw the accident and said Swyers made a good landing on the Arch.

'I guess he had no footing,' Peter Loehr said. 'He just slid down, fast. Where he landed was out of our field of vision; but I knew he was dead.'

Mrs. Swyers said: 'Kenny said the fear is always there. But it's a matter of your controlling the fear, instead of the fear controlling you.'

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