ACAMPO, Calif. (KTXL) — The owner of the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center spoke out Wednesday after an instructor was accused of training and certifying people in tandem jumping while he was unauthorized to do so.
Owner Bill Dause spoke for about 30 minutes, during which he downplayed the U.S. attorney‘s case against Robert Allen Pooley.
Pooley is accused of forging signatures for tandem jump certificates.
“Well, it’s a total surprise,” Dause said. “No … he doesn’t forge documents. That’s wrong.”
Video from August 2016 showed the moments before 18-year-old Tyler Turner fell to his death, along with his unlicensed tandem jump instructor.
Pooley, who is accused of fraudulently training Turner’s instructor, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.
Dause told reporters Pooley is not an employee but an independent contractor who uses the facility to teach tandem jumping courses.
Dause has allowed Pooley to teach at the facility for the past 10 years.
“He doesn’t work for me,” Dause said. “He is an independent individual that operates on the Lodi Airport. He doesn’t work here; he jumps here.”
He claimed the two are friends and their business relationship involves Dause selling Pooley tickets to fly in a plane in order to go skydiving.
There have been at least 20 recorded fatalities at the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center since it opened in 1981, but Dause has said the danger is just part of the sport.
“I have known literally hundreds of skydivers that are dead now,” Dause claimed.
However, there has been at least one federal raid at the center over the past four years.
Dause blamed the raid on Turner’s mother.
“She has gone through everything to make life tough on me. I don’t blame her; she certainly has a right to do that,” Dause said.
The Turner family recently won a $40 million lawsuit against Dause and the drop zone, but Dause said he does not have the money.
“Well, if I find $40 million, I’ll be glad to give it to them,” Dause said.
Despite his business suffering, Dause says now that Pooley has been released from custody, he’ll still be allowed to jump and teach at his facility.
FOX40 asked, “You can stop him from jumping here, right?”
“Yes, and I could ask you to leave also, but I didn’t,” Dause said.
Pooley is expected back at the federal courthouse on Aug. 23.
Dause does not face any charges, and the plane at the Lodi Airport still has Federal Aviation Administration certification to fly.