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WILMINGTON, N.C. – A man convicted of committing murder when he was 15 said Monday that he could only imagine the pain the victim’s family experienced, but he was unequivocal in stating his innocence:

“I swear on my life I didn’t do it.”

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Johnny Small’s comments came at a hearing Monday that could lead to his release. A Superior Court judge will consider whether Small should have been convicted now that a childhood buddy, David Bollinger, recanted testimony accusing Small of killing Pam Dreher in 1988. An autopsy report indicated Dreher was shot in the head at point-blank range while she was lying on the floor of her tropical fish store.

Judge W. Douglas Parsons is hearing the matter without a jury. The judge could toss the conviction, order a new trial or uphold the conviction.

About 150 people falsely convicted of crimes – a record number – were exonerated in 2015, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The registry is a project of the University of Michigan Law School and has documented more than 1,850 such cases in the U.S.

READ MORE: Steven Avery Project leader: ‘He’ll be exonerated’ without a trial

Bollinger, 47, and Small, now 43, faced each other Monday for the first time since they were teenagers on opposite sides of a murder trial. Bollinger has said he testified only because prosecutors promised charges he faced would be dropped in exchange and threatened the death penalty if he didn’t co-operate. Bollinger said he repeated a story pinning the crime on Small that was fed to him by a homicide investigator on the Dreher case.

“I’m sorry. I was forced to do something I didn’t want to do and I can’t take it back,” Bollinger told Small, a broad-shouldered man with freshly shaved head. Small’s face scrunched and reddened as he choked back tears, then raised his handcuffed wrists so he could dab his eyes with a tissue.

Bollinger said he understands North Carolina could prosecute him for lying under oath during the 1989 murder trial. But he got Small to sign a waiver that he wouldn’t sue Bollinger. Bollinger said he didn’t want to lose the small business and home he’s built for his wife and children over the years.

“What do you get out of this?” Small’s attorney Chris Mumma asked.

“I get nothing,” Bollinger said.

READ MORE: Los Angeles to pay $24.3M to 2 wrongly convicted men

Bollinger said he was driving to an automobile auction in South Carolina with his boss about the time Dreher was killed and didn’t drive Small to the scene, as he testified in 1989. He said he lied then because he was afraid that since he was an adult he could get the death penalty, and a Wilmington police detective told him Small could get out of prison after turning 18. Bollinger said he confided to his grandfather, a former police officer and FBI agent, about the lie police told him to tell.

“He told me to go along with the story. He knew I would get into trouble, and he didn’t like Johnny,” Bollinger said. Bollinger said his grandfather sat in on some of his interviews with Wilmington police, and Bollinger went to live with his grandfather after he was released from jail.

Charges against Bollinger were dropped after Small’s appeals through state courts failed.

Small’s attorneys say without Bollinger’s testimony, prosecutors never could have convicted Small of a crime that would have required planning by a more mature mind than the drug-taking, car stealing, juvenile delinquent Small admitted to being at age 15. No gun, fingerprints or blood-spattered clothing were found tying Small to the crime.

State attorneys said Small deserves neither a new trial or to be freed from prison. They spent hours trying to undermine the credibility of Small, Bollinger and others who testified Monday.

READ MORE: New DNA evidence frees man convicted of murder after 34 years in prison

A man exonerated by DNA evidence after 18 years in prison, Dwayne Allen Dail, also testified Monday that he was freed with the help of the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission, which Mumma heads as executive director. Bollinger was introduced to Dail at a party both attended in 2012, learned about his exoneration and then contacted the commission about his now-recanted testimony.

“I knew right then I’d found a way to at least come forward to someone,” Bollinger said. He said he approached the commission shortly thereafter.

State lawyer Jess Mekeel said the judge shouldn’t now believe that the story Bollinger first told as a teenager – and which he stuck with for years through grillings on witness stands – is fiction.

At a time when podcasts and TV programs tell the stories of people wronged by a flawed justice system, “innocence is in vogue now, and this case is quite a story,” Mekeel told the judge. “I think you’ve also heard the phrase, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. This is a good story. The facts will get in the way.”

MOOSE, Wyo. — A parasitic amoeba that causes deadly brain infections has turned up in a warm spring in Grand Teton National Park, prompting a warning Monday for anybody intent on soaking in the popular pool: If you absolutely must take a dip, try not to get water up your nose.

The single-celled, microscopic Naegleria fowleri amoeba typically occurs in the Southern U.S., not the Rocky Mountain West. Nobody on record has fallen ill from the parasite in Wyoming.

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Cases of the so-called “brain-eating” amoeba are rare — just a handful in the U.S. every year — but get attention. The amoeba killed an 11-year-old girl in South Carolina on Friday.

READ MORE: Brain-eating amoeba kills 11-year-old girl after swimming in river

Tests recently confirmed the amoeba in Grand Teton’s Kelly Warm Spring, a popular spot for locals to take the edge off a mountain-country chill.

“The biggest risk with that is it travels through your nose. We definitely encourage people not to put your head in the water, jump in — anything that would help the amoeba travel to your brain,” Grand Teton spokeswoman Denise Germann said.

Better yet, say park officials, don’t go in at all. The warm spring also had elevated levels of E. coli bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal illness.

The amoeba and high E. coli also have turned up in two hot springs in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. Soaking in Huckleberry Hot Springs and Polecat Springs in the parkway is prohibited but people sometimes sneak in anyway, said Germann.

WATCH: 3rd person dies from brain-eating Amoeba in Texas

Rather than close Kelly Warm Spring to soakers, park officials have decided to keep it in the same do-it-at-your-own-risk category as climbing the Teton Range or floating the Snake River. They’ve updated warning signs to include the amoeba.

“This is a serious situation and people need to have awareness,” Germann said. “We highly encourage that that is not the best place to be swimming, and wading and using the water.”

Not just amoebas thrive in the spring’s year-round temperatures between 85 and 150 degrees. Park officials plan to eliminate several species of illegally dumped aquarium fish that live there.

A Saskatchewan man who walked across Canada to raise awareness about domestic abuse was greeted by a tiny cheering section as he arrived at the Terry Fox statue at Mile 0 in Victoria after a four-month odyssey.

A beaming Conrad Burns said he endured blizzards, winds and long stints without food during a journey where he was able to speak with Canadians about ending domestic abuse.

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    READ MORE: ‘Everybody across Canada is affected’: Saskatchewan man on cross-country walk to end violence

    The 38-year-old Cree man from Prince Albert said the walk from Ottawa to Thunder Bay was the loneliest and most trying portion of his 7,400-trek across Canada.

    Burns said he did not walk the entire distance himself, estimating he personally walked 3,500 kilometres, but he counted the kilometres of friends who joined him for portions of the journey as part of his total.

    Burns said he set out to raise money to build safety homes for abuse survivors, but was not able to accomplish the goal and the money he did raise went to defray the costs of his walk.

    He said the walk and the support he received cost about the same — $10,000.

    Burns said he was honoured to end his walk at the Terry Fox statue.

    “It’s great to stand at the footsteps of an icon,” he said.

    WATCH: Saskatchewan man walking across Canada to raise awareness of domestic violence

    He said he was not disappointed that only three people, his mother and two friends, were on hand to witness his achievement.

    “A lot of people aren’t here today, but I do have a lot of friends and supporters that have come with me along the way,” Burns said.

    “I put a picture on Facebook Sunday and we have 250 likes. I have people congratulating me from all over Canada. Unfortunately, just because they aren’t here physically doesn’t mean they aren’t here spiritually.”

    Burns said he plans to run for mayor of Prince Albert this fall.

Rain in the Manitou Beach, Sask., area Monday had members of the community concerned for the future of the resort village on the shore of Little Manitou Lake.

In the seven years she’s worked at Camp Easter Seal, camp manager Su Hunyh has seen the impact the isolated salt water body has had on the shoreline.

“We certainly have lost some land,” Hunyh said.

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    Rainfall and run-off collects in the lake with no natural drainage in place.

    One barn on the camp’s property has long been surrounded by water. A breakwater designed to protect a nearby dock from wind has also been partially submerged.

    While the camp remains operational, staff members have created an emergency plan should water threaten the safety of the 65 to 110 campers that visit at a time.

    “We have a higher road where we can transport all the campers out of camp and take them to the civic centre in Watrous,” Hunyh said.

    Elsewhere along Manitou Beach, pumps beneath the 86-year-old Danceland hall work to keep the community cornerstone dry.

    “We were the first building to be sitting in the lake in 2006,” said Danceland co-owner Millie Strueby.

    Water levels in the area have been on the rise since 2010 and extreme weather with heavy precipitation in 2011 has created the current situation, according to Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) spokesperson Patrick Boyle.

    The current level of the lake is about 2.5 metres higher than average, according to Manitou Beach Mayor Gerry Worobec.

    “When you go up that high, [the water] spreads out a long ways,” he said.

    READ MORE: Saskatchewan opens flood recovery centre in Elfros

    A solution, including increasing the height of current dirt berms and a diversion effort for freshwater run-off would cost $5.2 million, Worobec said.

    However, the WSA doesn’t have “concrete numbers in yet” for the project, Boyle said.

    The village would pay 25 per cent of the project, while the province would cover the remainder. However, Worobec said Manitou Beach officials would like to negotiate paying a lower percentage.

    Manitou Beach is about five kilometres north of Watrous in central Saskatchewan.

Buying into a timeshare in a desirable destination often sounds like a good idea, but many buyers quickly regret their decision after learning of extra costs and reading the fine print.

But for those looking to get out of their timeshare, the answer isn’t straight forward.

Kelowna’s Rick Tippett and his wife were one such couple who hit a road block when trying to sell their Las Vegas timeshare, which they bought for $10,000.

They thought at the time that it would be money well spent and they were getting a great deal.

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But soon after buying, they realized the timeshare’s point system would only allow them to make two bookings over seven years. Add to that mounting maintenance fees and a high U.S. Dollar, the Tippetts wanted a way out.

“It’s very difficult. The timeshare companies, this is their source of revenue. They are collecting monthly payments from you for a future product or future time which you may or may not use,” says Toronto based lawyer Newton Wong.

Wong specializes in contract law and says the reason it’s so difficult to free yourself from a timeshare is because many owners have signed a binding contract.

“Each one of those timeshares is structured differently,” says Wong. “They have different legal requirements, different contracts for different timeshares.  So, it’s very important to review the agreement and look at the terms and see if there’s a way to vitiate the agreement.”

That often means hiring a lawyer.

There are also third party companies specializing in helping consumers get out of their timeshares with success.

Essentially, these companies review your contract, often negotiating directly with the resort. For more complicated cases, a lawyer is often hired. The service isn’t cheap.  It can cost thousands and take up to 18 months for results.

“There are companies out there that will attempt to sell it, but it’s always going to be extremely discounted. Sometimes you can’t even giveaway a timeshare, because there are ongoing maintenance costs to it.”

The American Resort Development Association Resort Owner’s Coalition says if you want to sell your timeshare, the first step is to ask your resort developer, manager or owner’s association.

It also cautions consumers to be wary of timeshare resale companies.  The resale market is riddled with scams.

Avoid giving your credit card number or paying any money to a company until you have done your research.  It’s also important to understand  there are no guarantees a timeshare can be resold.

SAN FRANCISCO – A special unit of the San Francisco Police Department is investigating how 19 people including a 6-year-old child could have eaten gummy candies at a birthday party that most likely were marijuana edibles, authorities said Monday.

The 19 were hospitalized Saturday, but all of them were released by Monday.

The unit is interviewing people to see if the candies were intentionally placed at the party to target children, which would be a serious crime, Officer Grace Gatpandan said at a news conference.

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But she said there could have been various ways the candies ended up at the San Francisco quinceanera, a traditional 15th birthday party.

READ MORE: Man arrested after drug-laced candy makes 24 ill at music festival

“We don’t want to automatically rush the assumption that this was an intentional act,” Gatpandan said.

Final laboratory results weren’t available Monday, but officials say some of the hospitalized patients tested positive for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Preliminary findings show the candies contain THC, public health officials said.

Thirteen of the patients were 18 or younger. The youngest was 6.

Police did not name the Oakland company that catered the party and provided the food, or say how the gummies were presented.

The prices of the candies vary widely, but they typically can be bought for about $25 for a pack of 10.

READ MORE: Munchable pot goodies could pose a ‘risk’ to children

Dr. Craig Smollin, co-director of the San Francisco branch of the California Poison Control Center, said ingesting edibles is not fatal. The people hospitalized showed symptoms consistent with the effects of edible cannabis, including rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, lethargy and confusion

Authorities are concerned about making sure marijuana edibles that are attractive to children – such as gummy rings – do not get into kids’ hands.

The event could serve as a warning about the dangers of edibles, which can be extremely potent, said Dr. Tomas Aragon, the health officer of San Francisco. It’s also hard to control the proper dosage.

“A situation like this, where they were consumed by unsuspecting people, and many children, is greatly concerning,” he said.

Despite competing in three Olympics, it doesn’t seem to ever get old for Quebec kayaker Émilie Fournel who departed from Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport in Dorval for the Rio Olympic Games on Monday.

“Being able watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday night, I was like an eight-year-old kid on the couch screaming and stuff so I was clearly pretty excited,” Fournel said.

The Canadian kayak team decided not to participate in this year’s opening ceremony because they wanted to stay focused.

“We decided that it was better for us to train the longest in Canada on good water with our own boats and with the environment that we were used to,” Fournel said.

Canada’s Émilie Fournel paddles in a women’s kayak single 200m semifinal in Eton Dorney, near Windsor, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

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    Fournel will be competing in singles K1 500m sprint as well as the relay K4 500m.

    She finished in the singles K1 event in 2012 in London and 10th at the 2008 Beijing Games.

    “For me, it’s the third time around and I have big expectation for myself, I want to do better than I did in the last two Olympics,” she said.

    After all the years of high level competition, what drives Fournel isn’t necessarily a medal.

    “When you see people going on the podium, it’s a representation of the perfect execution of what you’ve been doing for the longest time,” said Fournel.

    “Just saying it makes me have chills because that’s what it’s all about.”

    Fournel comes from a family of kayakers.

    Her brother Hugues Fournel will also be competing in Rio in the K2 doubles competition.

    The family’s success stems from their parents, who were also elite paddlers.

    Their mother, Guylaine St-George is a Pan-American kayaker, while their late father, Jean Fournel, competed in canoeing during the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.

    “They were born in a kayak because I was paddling, he was paddling, so all the time we lived very close to the canoe club in Lachine,” St-Georges said.

    “This is where they grew up.”

    Fournel’s first race is on Aug. 17.

It’s a daytime disruption that comes far too close for comfort, according to some West Kelowna residents.

Neighbours who live behind Valhalla Helicopters say the company is flying its aircraft multiple times a day directly over their homes, sometimes as early as 4:30 a.m. They say it’s been a problem for the past three years, ever since Valhalla open its doors.

“Sometimes they’re coming 200 feet above the house,” said resident Brent Graumann. “The dishes rattle, windows rattle.”

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Valhalla Helicopters owner Blair Savege said his company is operating within its rights and adamantly denies his aircraft fly too close to homes.

“Our flight path is away from the residential area, departing over the commercial area,” Savege said.

There are a handful of helicopter companies that operate in the area, but residents say their major concern is with Valhalla.

Savege said residents had approached his company in the past, but only with “numerous rude phone calls, which are very difficult to handle.”

“We are willing to work with [residents] but won’t hamper business opportunities as we have bought our land in the proper zoned area for operation we conduct,” said Savege.

Now residents have rallied West Kelowna city council, in hopes it can enforce noise bylaws.

The city can’t confirm or deny if the allegations against Valhalla Helicopters are true, but said even if they are, its hands are tied. The city doesn’t have authority over aircraft, Transport Canada does.

West Kelowna CAO Jim Zaffino recommended council write a letter to Transport Canada and the provincial government to see what, if anything, council can do.

“Council is not just ignoring this,” said Zaffino.

Council will decide if it will act on the complaints, including move forward with contacting Transport Canada, at Tuesday’s council meeting.

RIO DE JANEIRO – After getting knocked down in a disappointing semifinal, Canada picked itself up to thump Britain and win the first ever bronze medal in Olympic women’s rugby sevens Monday.

The Canadians, who lost 22-0 to Britain in an error-filled preliminary-round game, dominated the bronze medal game en route to a 33-10 victory. Australia, which downed Canada 17-5 in a convincing semifinal victory earlier in the day, defeated New Zealand 24-17 to win gold.

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For many of the Canadian women, the bronze was something special to take home after a journey together of five years or longer.

Captain Jen Kish, who absorbed some body-crunching hits Monday, almost floated over to the waiting media after the resounding bronze medal win.

READ MORE: Best photos from Day 1 through Day 3 at the Summer Games in Rio

“I feel like a superhero,” said a beaming Kish, who had been shedding tears just minutes earlier as the clock counted down. “I know 11 of my other teammates feel that way too.

“What a freaking historic moment for us. Now I know what our Canadian women’s soccer team felt like when they got bronze (at the 2012 Games). It’s just an ultimate superhero feeling. It’s great.”

The Canadian women have undoubtedly inspired. But in some ways, the bronze will be a shiny consolation prize.

“It’s bittersweet because I still feel if we’d been able to put that performance in against Australia, we’d be playing in the finals match for gold instead,” coach John Tait said. “It’s a hard lesson for us. The good news is we still got a medal out of it and the girls can be really proud of that.”

Watch below: Jen Kish’s family and friends speak about watching her win Olympic bronze

Third-seeded Canada made life hard for itself all tournament, consigned itself to play top-seeded Australia in the semis after losing its final pool game to No. 4 Britain.

The Canadians needed to bring their ‘A’ game to threaten the Aussies, who lost just three times in 30 World Series games this season, but failed to rise to the occasion.

“There’s a lot of games over this tournament that we just didn’t play the rugby that we are capable of,” said Ghislaine Landry, who led Canada with 18 points in a bounce-back performance against Britain. “We were pretty disappointed with that, but that’s a performance that we can be proud of and it’s good rugby.

“I’m glad people got to see the chance to see that because that’s what we can do on a regular basis. We just weren’t able to do it this tournament overall.”

Canada’s Kelly Russell celebrates with teammates after scoring a try against the U.K. during the women’s seven rugby bronze medal match on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Reuters/ Alessandro Bianchi

Landry who called the Australia loss a “heartbreaker,” said the team rebounded by going back to basics.

Tait acknowledged after the semifinal defeat that a bronze medal was “not the one we wanted.” But his team eventually won it in style, reeling off 19 unanswered points to lead 26-5 at the half.

Landry scored two tries and added four conversions. Canada also got tries from Karen Paquin, Bianca Farella and Kelly Russell.

“Had we played like that all tournament, it would have been a gold medal for sure,” said Landry.

But for Kish, the bronze medal win was a show of character after the poor showing against Australia.

“We were devastated. The gold medal dream was over,” she said. “But you know what, the loss doesn’t define us. It’s how you get up after the loss and we rose to the occasion.”

The final performance was a tonic for Tait, a towering former Canadian international who has guided the team to significant heights. He said his players came out against Britain “a little bit pissed off with the way they played (against) Australia.”

READ MORE: Summer Olympics medal count results

The pressure was on.

Rugby Canada has given its coaches little rope in recent months, letting men’s sevens coach Liam Middleton go and losing 15s coach Kieran Crowley after a post-World Cup review.

“We’re funded to win and get on the podium,” said Tait. “So there’s a lot hanging in the balance. People’s jobs and the girls’ livelihoods and funding … But the girls showed what happens.”

The medal was years in the making with Tait and his team having endured ups and down on and off the field. They have battled injuries, family illnesses and worse. Tait took pride in his players finishing on a high note.

“They’ve gone through a lot together. They knew deep down inside when they play like they can, they’re pretty hard to beat,” he said.

How close are the Canadian women? There are hugs all round in the tunnel before every game.

The medal is huge for Rugby Canada and punctuates the importance of the women’s game in the country. The men’s sevens team failed to qualify for the Games and the 15-man team is ranked 18th in the world, compared to No. 2 to the women.

Canada’s Charity Williams, right, jumps into the arms of Hannah Darling as they win bronze defeating Great Britain’s in women’s rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.

Sean Kilpatrick/

The Australians were the class of the Women’s World Series this season, winning three of the five events and finishing second and third in the other two. Their record on the circuit was 27-3 with two of the defeats at the hands of England. The other setback was a 29-19 loss to Canada in the final of the last event of the season in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Australia won two earlier meetings with Canada on the circuit.

Canada split its four World Series meetings this season with England, which joins forces with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to compete as Britain at the Games, but won the last two encounters.

There were plenty of empty seats at Deorodo Stadium on Monday although there was star quality in the afternoon in the form of actor Matthew McConaughey in a Team USA shirt cheering on the Americans.

Canada came into the tournament as a medal contender after winning last summer’s Pan American Games and finishing third on the world circuit this season. The Canadians were second in the World Series in 2014-15.

Women’s rugby is making its Olympic debut, while men’s rugby returns for the first time since 1924 when the U.S. won the 15-a-side tournament.

Some of the Canadian women will be heading to new challenges after the Games. Tait is already looking for a new generation of players.

“So if there are any girls out there looking to play in 2020, you can contact me directly at jtait↕rugbycanada长沙夜网,” he said.

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SAN FRANCISCO – The mother of a skydiver who plummeted to his death with an instructor in a California vineyard said her teenage son was an adventurous spirit who was willing to try just about anything – including the jump that was on his bucket list of things to do in life.

Tyler Turner, 18, had a mild case of cerebral palsy and walked with a crouched gait. His mother Francine Salazar Turner said that didn’t dampen his zest for life.

Tyler Turner had graduated from high school with honours and had been bound for the University of California at Merced this month to study biomedical engineering.

On Saturday, his mother drove Turner and his best friend to the Parachute Center in Lodi, east of San Francisco, where she says they joined two other friends and sped through a safety video.

WATCH: Investigators probe deadly California skydiving accident

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Before going up in a plane, Tyler Turner knelt at the edge of the jumping area and said a quick prayer. He gave his mom a tight hug and told her he loved her.

He jumped while his mother waited on the ground, wondering which one of the tiny dots in the air was her son.

Tyler Turner and the instructor died when they plunged together to the ground after their shared parachute did not open.

Francine Turner said the instructor was found with his hand on the lever for a backup parachute but it was never pulled.

San Joaquin County sheriff’s officials have not identified the instructor.

“One of the last things they wanted to do was go on a skydiving trip they’ve been talking about,” Turner said about her son and his friends, who jumped safely. “I hate for any other mother to go through this.”

Turner said she paid $175 for her son’s jump, which included a video recording that is now in the hands of federal investigators.

READ MORE: Alberta RCMP search for missing base jumper near Canmore

The four friends filled out paperwork but didn’t finish watching the safety video before they were hustled into gear, she said.

Turner said she was appalled that the centre continued sending people up to jump while she waited for word about her son. She thought the centre might halt operations.

“I’m out there waiting for my son to be recovered, for hours, and they just kept jumping over my head,” she said.

Bill Dause, owner of the Parachute Center, said the instructor was a veteran who had about 700 previous jumps. Dause said he sympathized but there was nothing he could do.

“It was just an accident,” he told The Associated Press on Monday.

Dause told Sacramento television station KCRA on Saturday that it appeared “something may have gone out of sequence in the jump.” He did not elaborate.

READ MORE: 1 of 2 skydivers killed in California was first-time jumper

The wind and other conditions were perfect, he added.

In May, a small plane carrying 17 skydivers took off from the centre and landed upside-down after clipping a pickup truck. People involved sustained minor cuts and scrapes.

In February, the Lodi News-Sentinel reported a solo skydiver died after a parachute malfunction at the centre. Further details were not immediately available.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover funeral costs for Tyler Turner.