Skydiver died after cracking head on friend's leg in mid-air

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An experienced skydiver died when he fractured his skull in a mid-air collision with one of his best friends, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Robert Monk, 39, from Bedminster in Bristol, was on holiday with two friends at a Spanish parachuting centre when the accident happened on 28 July.

Mr Monk's friend, Elliot Borthwick, also 39 and from Bristol, told the inquest at Bristol coroner's court that the three had skydived together many times and were planning to jump in a "sit-up" formation, with their legs linked as they were free-falling.

At the last moment before jumping out of the plane, they decided to open their parachutes earlier than usual, but Mr Monk apparently forgot about the change of plan.

When the other two opened their parachutes, Mr Monk remained in free-fall at a speed of 130mph and crashed into his friend John Carew's leg, fracturing his skull.

"We were smiling and laughing and having fun," Mr Borthwickrecalled. "When we separated I flipped over and opened my chute. I looked under me and saw Rob and John [Carew] still linked together." He saw Mr Carew jettison his parachute and use his reserve parachute, but he could not see Mr Monk.

"Because we were so far from the drop zone, when it came to break away at 6,000ft, I think Rob reverted to our old thing of coming back together after we had broken off," said Mr Borthwick.

He thought that Mr Carew was unaware that his friend had flown back towards him, and as he opened his parachute his leg collided with Mr Monk's head.

Rescuers found Mr Monk's body near Castello de Cempurias, about 30 miles from Gerona in north-east Spain.

Two hours after the accident Mr Carew, 35, from Birmingham, was found unconscious in a field of maize. He awoke in hospital to find surgeons had had to amputate part of his leg.

Mr Carew spent a week in a Spanish hospital before returning to Birmingham.

The fatal jump was the group's final one on their holiday in Emporia Brava, one of Europe's biggest skydiving locations.

The Avon and District coroner, Paul Forrest, recorded a verdict of accidental death. "There was a mid-air collision which resulted in the deceased free-falling to his death. He received a fracture of the cranium, as was certified in Spain," he ruled.