An Ontario man killed in a skydiving accident in California was competent and had more than 1,600 jumps to his credit, his former employer said Wednesday.

Michael Ungar, 32, of Aylmer, Ont., died Tuesday after hitting the ground attempting a risky manoeuvre known as "swooping", a high-speed dive to skim the ground before lifting up and landing.

"He was a wholesome, young and athletic guy," Niagara Skydive Centre owner Tim Grech told

Ungar worked at the Dunnville, Ont., facility as an instructor for the last two years, finishing his latest contract in October, he said. The company's website said Ungar had been skydiving since 2003.

"Well, it was very tragic skydiving accident," Grech said. "He was a very experienced skydiver. I've known him for about five years."

He said Ungar was the type of guy who liked to travel around and pick up instructing jobs at various skydiving outfits, his latest being Skydive Hollister near San Francisco, Calif.

Police and the coroner in Riverside County where the accident happened said Ungar landed in a shallow pond around 2:01 p.m. and was pulled from the water by friends.

Firefighters performed CPR on Ungar, but failed to revive him.

His parachute was open and he may have been attempting the swooping manoeuvre, police said.

Grech said that Ungar had performed the complicated move several times before and was hoping to carry it out at competition level one day.

"It's something where a second literally makes a difference between having a beautiful landing and having a tragic landing," Grech said.

A witness who saw Ungar's last landing said his parachute was open and he was circling as he neared the ground.

Jack Nix of Fontana told the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper that he knew the skydiver was in trouble when he didn't pull up or turn his body upright from parallel to the ground.

The skydiver hit the ground and disappeared behind an airplane, the witness said.

Ungar is the sixth death at the popular Perris Valley Skydiving centre in the past 15 months.

The facility is regarded as one of the world's foremost skydiving facilities and has more than 140,000 jumps per year, the centre's manager Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld told the newspaper.

He believes Ungar was visiting the area and not a regular at the centre.

With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press