Best mate pays tribute to skydiver
SKYDIVING legend Phil Whatmore had already cheated death in a skydiving accident which left him disabled before he was killed at Crowley Vale.
Mr Whatmore, 66, was on track to become a world champion in his 20s until he was critically injured when a parachute malfunction caused him to collide with powerlines.
Fellow skydiver Dave McEvoy yesterday paid tribute to his close friend from Plainland who fell to his death in a paddock after his parachute malfunctioned at 3.40pm on Sunday.
"He really did die doing what he loved," Mr McEvoy said.
"He's a true legend (in skydiving circles) and was struck down before he really made the big time."
Mr McEvoy and Mr Whatmore started skydiving together in 1967 and joined the Ramblers Association Club the next year.
Chief instructor Bob Morrison trained and mentored the pair and the trio won a place on the Australian Parachute team.
The group competed in the World Championships in Yugoslavia in 1970.
"Phil was exceptional," Mr McEvoy said.
"He was my best mate and he was the star.
"He was much better than me in competition and was ahead of his time."
Mr Whatmore also competed in world championships in America and Hungary.
However, he was critically injured while testing new equipment when he was about 30.
Mr Whatmore was forced to activate the reserve parachute, which was difficult to manoeuvre and he was blown into powerlines at Beaudesert.
Mr McEvoy and John Friswell were on the scene at the time of at the accident.
"John gave him mouth-to-mouth and saved his life," Mr McEvoy said.
Mr Whatmore sustained serious burns to his legs and back but refused to use a wheelchair.
He used walking sticks after the accident and never fully recovered. His skydiving career ended.
However, after a few years, during which he found God, he worked up the courage to jump again.
"He started jumping again, which took a tonne of guts and was still jumping to the day he died," Mr McEvoy said.
"Phil was also an extraordinary artist, a very devout Christian, and a kind guy."
Mr Whatmore had performed more than 1000 jumps before his first accident.
The Australian Parachute Federation is investigating the incident, which occurred at the Ripcord Sky Divers club.
Police will also prepare a report for the Coroner.