THE heartbroken mother of an Aughton skydiver who fell over 12,000ft to his death in the Algarve paid tribute to a son who ‘lived life to the full’.
The body of Jonathon Wickham was found in scrubland near the Portuguese coast about 2km from his drop zone on Sunday morning following a sea and land search.
The 44-year-old had leapt from a plane that had taken off from the Portimao Aerodrome with a group of experienced parachutists on Saturday afternoon but neither his parachute or reserve chute are thought to have opened.
Reports in Portugal said he was seen spinning out of control before disappearing from sight.
His distraught mum Helen told the Advertiser of the family’s heartbreak from their Algarve home.
She said: “Every parent dreads hearing this news.
“Skydiving is so dangerous. “But you can’t stop them doing what they love. At least I can say Jonathon died doing what he loved the most in the world. “It’s supposed to be a comfort, but it’s not so much at the moment. We don’t know what happened yet, no-one knows why the parachute wasn’t deployed. There was a video taken of his exit. He was spiralling but whether or not he lost consciousness we just don’t know. There’s all sorts of investigations underway.
“Jonathon was a very experienced skydiver and also enjoyed snowboarding and skiing. He really did live life to the full and we were all very proud of him.”
Jonathon and his brothers Philip and Martin moved to the Algarve from Aughton 17 years ago. There they were reunited with parents Helen and Ray, who had retired to the popular holiday destination a year earlier from their home in Moss Delph Lane.
Former Ormskirk Cross Hall high and Lydiate primary pupil Jonathon met his Australian wife Catherine in Portugal and the pair set up a shade installation firm together in Odiaxere, near Portimao. Jonathon took up skydiving around four years ago and had completed more than 350 jumps before his fatal fall. Skydiving is popular at the Portimao Aerodrome with almost 300 days of sunshine recorded annually.
John Doyle, head teacher at Ormskirk School, which was created in 2001 when Cross Hall and Ormskirk Grammar merged, said: “What a tragedy it is that anyone’s life is snuffed out in this way.”
The Algarve Daily News website paid tribute to a “well-known and respected businessman who will be keenly missed by the Algarve business community, his many customers and especially his wife Catherine, who ran the business with her husband”.
Jonathon’s body was reportedly taken to Barlavento Hospital in Portimao for doctors to establish the cause of death.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the death of a British national in Portugal. We stand ready to provide consular assistance to the family.”