March 16, 2004 - 11:19AM
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Clare Barnes ... "one of those very positive, very happy, strong, outgoing personalities."
The 24-year-old skydiving daughter of UK foreign office minister Denis MacShane and British newsreader Carol Barnes kissed her boyfriend in mid-air just before she plunged to her death near Melbourne at the weekend.
Clare Barnes was killed when her parachute malfunctioned during a jump with her boyfriend at Barwon Heads on the weekend.
Skydive City Club manager Luke McWilliam said the couple were unaware that tragedy was moments away when they shared the romantic moment as they were free falling during her 200th jump.
Mr McWilliam said Clare had met her Australian boyfriend through skydiving and they lived in Melbourne.
"I think they actually met through the skydiving world. They have been together for a number of years," he said.
"He is obviously completely devastated. They were very close."
Early investigations indicate Clare was attempting a nine-way formation when it appears her main chute had become entangled with an emergency chute after she exited the aircraft at 14,000 feet (4,267 metres).
Mr McWilliam said she had been with the skydive club for about two years and her death had shaken the club.
"She was extremely well liked. She's one of those very positive, very happy, strong, outgoing personalities," Mr McWilliam said.
"Everyone is just completely devastated."
A spokesman for Victoria police said the team performed the manoeuvre successfully and then broke away to open their parachutes.
"Her parachute failed to open properly," he said. "As a result she hit the ground, sustaining fatal injuries."
In their statement, the family said Clare fought desperately to save herself.
"Her parachutes malfunctioned and she fought to control her fall all the way to the final, instant oblivion," it said. "She will live forever in the memory of her parents, family and friends."
In a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London, where Dr MacShane is minister for Europe, the family said: "Clare was close to both her parents, to her brother, James and her half-sisters and half-brother who are united in grief at the loss of a beautiful young woman who made more friends in her short life than most manage over long decades.
"She died as she lived, living at the edge of experience in a sport that gave her immense pleasure."
A family friend, who did not wish to be named, said: "Skydiving was Clare's absolute passion, it really was. She loved it more than anyone. It was her life."
Miss Barnes had already spent several years living in Australia and had returned to the country last summer to pursue the sport, the friend said.
Carol Barnes and Mr MacShane were never married but had a long-term relationship during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
After leaving ITN about six years ago, Carol Barnes rejoined the news team for the war in Iraq as one of the main presenters on the ITV News Channel