NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 4/15/2011 11:43:12 PM ET 2011-04-16T03:43:12

One skydiver died and a second was critically injured Friday when they collided in midair over Perris Valley Airport, just two weeks after two others were killed in a similar accident, authorities said.

The accident was reported around 1:50 p.m. near the airfield at 2091 Goetz Road, KNBC in Los Angeles reported. It wasn't immediately clear whether the parachutists became entangled or struck each other and descended separately.

Perris Valley Skydiving manager Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld said the collision occurred about 200 feet above the ground. He said the victims were experienced jumpers — one from Denmark, the other from Italy — with a couple thousand jumps each, The Associated Press reported.

"In both of these situations, it was two very experienced people on days when there was hardly any other people in the air," he said. "And somehow they lost track of each other and ran into each other. It's dumbfounding to us."

"The only thing we can put it on is a certain degree of complacency or lack of awareness in one or both of them," he said. "It's like getting in a car wreck when there's only two cars on the freeway."

Both men were taken to a hospital by ambulance — one died at the hospital and the other was in critical condition, Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela said. The surviving skydiver underwent emergency surgery for severe injuries to his head and chest.

Valenzuela said she didn't know if it was the man from Denmark or the man from Italy who died. Their identities will be released once their families are notified.

On March 31, two instructors from the school were killed when they became intertwined and plummeted 400 feet to the ground.

Friday's accident occurred a day before a planned memorial jump — known as an ash dive — to honor the victims of the previous crash.

The sheriff-coroner's office identified those victims as Patrick James McGowan of Menifee and Christopher David Stasky of San Diego, both 42, according to The AP.

McGowan had worked with the airport for almost 20 years.

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