'Fearless' Elgin woman dies in sky diving accident

Updated 8/2/2013 7:59 PM
  • Stephanie Eggum, 32, of Elgin died in a sky diving accident Thursday.

    Stephanie Eggum, 32, of Elgin died in a sky diving accident Thursday. COURTESY OF THE EGGUM FAMILY

  • Stephanie Eggum, 32, of Elgin sky dives over Arizona in this video image. Eggum died Thursday during a jump near Ottawa, Ill.

    Stephanie Eggum, 32, of Elgin sky dives over Arizona in this video image. Eggum died Thursday during a jump near Ottawa, Ill. courtesy of the EGGUM family

A professional sky diver from Elgin who also made her mark as a drag racer died in a sky diving accident Thursday afternoon, relatives said Friday.

LaSalle County authorities are investigating the death of 32-year-old Stephanie Eggum. A preliminary investigation found Eggum cut away her main parachute and then deployed her reserve chute at an altitude too low to allow full deployment, sheriff's police said.

LaSalle County sheriff's deputies and an ambulance were called to a site in Dayton Township, near Ottawa. Officers were directed to a cornfield where they found Eggum, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Eggum took off from Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, her father said. No one answered the phone at the company Friday evening.

Eggum grew up in West Dundee and graduated from Jacobs High School in Algonquin, then attended Sasson Academy in Chicago, relatives said. Her family includes parents Jim and Pam Eggum of Elgin and a younger sister, Diana.

Stephanie Eggum was shy and somewhat of a homebody in high school, but a whole new side of her personality shone through with sky diving and drag racing, her father said.

"When she did what she loved, she was outgoing," he said.

She started sky diving around 2002, then got into drag racing a couple of years later after watching the movie "The Fast and The Furious," her father said.

Precision Turbo and Engine President Harry Hruska, whose Indiana-based company sponsored Stephanie Eggum's racing, remembered her as "an overall amazing woman" in a Facebook post Friday afternoon.

"I feel fortunate that I was able to spend a few quality years with her chasing the dream of a NHRA Sport Compact Hot Rod Championship. Along the way, we learned a lot about each other, taught each other, laughed a lot, and set records that to this day haven't been broken," Hruska wrote.

"Passionate and fearless in everything she did, she was a true pioneer in the sport. She was an inspiration to all, and will not be forgotten."

Stephanie Eggum eventually circled back to her original passion for sky diving, which ended up taking her all over the country and places as far as Switzerland, Jim Eggum said.

She had sky dived more than 1,000 times and was a wind tunnel sky diving instructor, her father said. She had a professional license so she could jump during outdoor events, he said.

She was supposed to go to Denver, Colo., this weekend and to Hawaii in two weeks. "Everything she does, it was for sky diving in one way or the other," her father said.

Stephanie Eggum spent time on the West Coast, coming home every four to six weeks, her father said.

On her visits home, Eggum, a hairdresser, would make appointments with clients at Headquarters Salon & Spa in Elgin. Salon owner Debra Junod knew Eggum since she was a baby.

"She was very serious about her work, and also serious about her play. Work was one way she could be able to afford to play," Junod said. "We kind of enjoyed living through her. She did a lot of living in her short time."

Eggum was in a great mood during a private Pilates class on Wednesday, said Taylor Abitua-Lamanna, her friend and owner of Inner Peace Pilates in West Dundee. The two grew up in the same neighborhood.

She was planning to train to become a Pilates instructor and move out west, Abitua-Lamanna said.

"She lived life to the fullest," she said. "She was a go-getter. Everything that she wanted to do, she went and did it. She was very full of life. She was fearless. She was also very compassionate."

Abitua-Lamanna said she sky dived a few times with Eggum in the last three years. "It was just so cool to see her in her element. She just looked like a rock star," she said.

His daughter died doing what she loved, her father said.

"It doesn't make you feel any better," Jim Eggum said.

• The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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