LAKE ELSINORE —Ken Oka, 62, of Mira Loma, a popular and experienced skydiver, has died after plummeting into a Southern California backyard.
UT San Diego cites a preliminary investigation report that finds a group of skydivers were trying a multiple-person maneuver over Riverside County on May 25 when one of them became entangled in a parachute.
Oka was unable to free himself and fell to the ground.
Police found him in the backyard of a Lake Elsinore home. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The newspaper says police and the Federal Aviation Administration are conducting independent investigations.
In a 2004 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Oka explained formation jumping: “You literally wrap your foot in your teammate’s parachute line and you try to fly this (formation) very uniformly together. The thought of danger, I guess, plays in there someplace, but that is nowhere near the top. It’s just fun with your friends up there, aligning the parachutes and being able to do this skill.”
Friends and family said that Oka died doing what he loved most. A memorial page on Facebook included this message: “Fly free, Ken! We love you.”
“He was just an icon … We are going to miss him so much,” Craig Stapleton, a fellow jumper and safety advisor at Parachute Center in Acampo, told The Press-Enterprise. He added, “People should know that the guy absolutely loved the sport. He loved the diving, he loved all the people in it.”
Born to Makio and Esther (Mits) Fukushima Oka on May 18, 1951 in Ogden, Utah, Oka was an Eagle Scout and served a two-year mission in Hokkaido for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He graduated from Bonneville High School and earned bachelor’s degrees in photography and manufacturing engineering from Weber State University, and his MBA from the University of Phoenix. His career took him to Tucson, San Jose, and Southern California.
Oka was a black belt in judo and loved skiing, traveling, cooking, and sharing his recipes with family and friends. Skydiving was his passion for 28 years with over 5,000 jumps, while setting world records, winning awards and specializing in canopy formations. He jumped wherever and whenever there was an opportunity, from Florida to Hawaii to his favorite country, Italy.
He became well known in the skydiving community after risking his life to save a fellow skydiver, created the “Ken Oka Pull-Up Cord,” and founded the Oka Cup skydiving competition held every year in California since 2002. His friends said they will continue the event in celebration of his life.
Oka is survived by his long-time girlfriend, Lyn Collins; their dog, Misty; four sisters in Utah, Jeanne (Scott) Wayment of North Ogden, Janet (Hal) Torman of Uintah, Joan (Mike) Hesley of Layton, and Teri Mitsie Oka of South Ogden; many nieces and nephews; his skydiving family, and the “brothers he never had,” Ron (Barbara) Ercanbrack and Greg (Felicita) Faussette. He was preceded in death by his parents and a niece.
Memorial services will be held in Ogden in late June and in Mira Loma in July in conjunction with an “ash dive” at Lake Elsinore. Oka specified that in the event of his death, he wanted his ashes to be spread in freefall. Details will be announced as they become available.
Memorial page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/100957653448371/
Oka Cup 2014: https://www.facebook.com/events/194331677386615/