The Importance of Not Giving a F!
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You've probably seen the video PussFoot featured – 'Premature Deployment - Have you seen my shoe?' (below) It generated so much buzz we thought it would be useful to bring you a quick interview with the two guys involved…
Kevin, tell us what happened
Kevin: I want to thank Pussfoot for reaching out to me in regard to the video. I'd like to explain how things unfolded. Me and a friend exited side by side, meaning we left at exactly the same time diving out after the linked pair. As soon as we got out, my hackey, on my right side, caught Joe's left hip ring/leg strap as we bumped hips, causing my pilot chute to come out and wrap up his leg – all of which was happening behind me. As you can see I started tracking right after the bump. He got on his back to address the tangle and passed me with lines in tow. I wasn't even sure if they were mine or what was happening until I saw my canopy below me. As soon as the lines got taut, I got jerked forward/down and off to the side just as the shoe came off. I reached for my RSL and before I could get to it, the canopy opened and went past me.
I did my controllability check as taught in AFF and it still flew ok. Unknown to me, it had a broken B line on the right, a large hole in the left end cell, line burns everywhere, and multiple tears including ribs being separated. I did a few turns, flares and talked myself out of cutting away, since I felt it was controllable and I could land it, which I ended up doing.
broken B line on the right, a large hole in the left end cell, line burns everywhere & multiple tears including separated ribs
Some people think your slider was collapsed, is that true?
Kevin: For sure my slider was not collapsed as it would be impossible to square the slider for opening while packing, before wrapping the tail. The slider was all the way at the bottom of lines after coming out of the bag, which pulled both pull tabs as they made their way through the mess of lines all the way up to the top where the risers are, since the canopy was below me. My pin was seated and I confirmed this myself before getting to the door, as well as my freefly tuck tab, my pilot chute was all the way in the BOC with no bridle coming out, the closing loop was proper length and condition. Gear or pack job were not the causes.
If you could have done anything different what would it have been?
Kevin: The exit was the main reason why this happened. Don't exit side by side with someone diving out as the relative wind can push you together, causing you to snag handles. Protect your pilot chute and handles, avoid bumping or passing someone on your right side.
What were your first thoughts?
Kevin: I knew I needed to disconnect my RSL in case I needed to get out of my canopy before going to my reserve. If I went right to my cutaway handle with my RSL still connected, I could have lost both canopies as well as escalated the situation, putting me and Joe in an even worse position.
I've seen how bad things can get in what seems like milliseconds and I will make better decisions in the future
How did you feel once the tangle had cleared?
Kevin: It happened so fast and to say it was a hard opening would be an understatement. It came as quite a surprise to be open above 12k. I was relieved the other jumper was clear and I wasn't swimming in a mess of lines and canopy.
You landed that parachute that was damaged, what were your thoughts behind that?
Kevin: The conditions that day were 35mph uppers and I was facing a headwind with the DZ looking to still be pretty far out. I was above 12k. I did controllability checks, made sure my canopy still functioned and was landable. Since I had a long canopy ride and it still flew ok, I decided not to go from a canopy I felt 75% good about, to one that I'm sure would have opened, but there's no going back once you chop it. So, I decided to land the canopy while keeping a good eye on its condition and keeping my inputs small and smooth. Mostly I flew with rear risers and I had to keep slight tension on the canopy as it started to hiccup in full flight (most likely from the rib separation).
Kevin, will this change the way you skydive?
Kevin: I am much more aware of the importance of protecting your pilot chute throughout the jump; getting in the plane, in the door, on exit and in freefall. This jump taught me a lot and I'm happy to share my thoughts in the hope others can learn. I'm happy we both handled it the way we did; the only casualties were a shoe and an Icarus Safire 2 190. I've seen how bad things can get in what seems like milliseconds and I will make better decisions in future.
Joe, please tell us what happened
Joe: We were planning a simple 5-way belly jump. The exit plan was one on the camera step, two in the door, with Kevin and me diving out after them. Moments after jumping out I felt something but assumed it was just me and Kevin bumping into each other and we would get stable in a few seconds. I quickly realized that wasn't the case when I saw lines. The next thing I knew I had his bridle wrapped around my right leg and I was hanging upside down. I tried to reach up a few times to free myself, but quickly realized that wasn't going to work. After a few seconds I kicked my shoe off. Fortunately that freed me, and Kevin's canopy deployed. I was still above 13k, so I free fell down to normal deployment altitude and landed uneventfully.
the next thing I knew I had his bridle wrapped around my right leg and I was hanging upside down
When you looked up and saw you were caught up what were you thinking?
Joe: I just remember seeing his lines and immediately thinking “oh shit, this is not good”. You can see in the video that I was only wrapped up for less than 10 seconds. It felt much longer as I remember having many thoughts go through my head. I knew I needed to free myself as soon as possible. I thought Joe was going to need to cut away his main and that would either free me or if the bridle was still around my leg, it might at least relieve some tension and I would hopefully be able to separate myself from his canopy. I feel like I was able to remain calm because this happened right out the door and I never felt any ground rush. I knew I had time to work the situation out.
_Oh shit, this is not good_
What made you pull off your shoe?
Joe: I tried to unwrap the bridle from my leg and realized it wasn't going to work. After it was wrapped up for a few seconds I felt it tighten and I really didn't think I was going to be able to get free. Then I had the feeling it was stuck on my sneaker and if I could get my sneaker off I might get free. I remember having a split second of concern for losing my sneaker before wisely choosing my life over my shoe. I was able to get my left foot on my right heel and pop the shoe right off. It looked like Kevin instantly shot up and I felt a wave of relief.
I had a split second of concern for losing my sneaker before wisely choosing my life over my shoe
Joe, once you cleared what were you thinking?
Joe: My first thought was one of incredible relief. Since I knew I was ok, my next thought was hoping that Kevin was as well. Since I saw his canopy open, I felt reasonably certain he was alright. We exited around 15k, so I was still above 13 once we had everything sorted out. I thought of going to join my friends but I'd had enough excitement for one jump! One guy started flying over to me but I flew away.
Will this change the way you skydive?
Joe: The main takeaway that I will have on every jump going forward is to be more diligent about covering my handles. Even though my handle didn't come out, it was a strong reminder how quickly it can happen to anyone. I'm also keeping an eye out on the plane more looking at other jumpers. On a broader level it was a wake up against getting too complacent. I just got my C license which I read is the license jumpers have the most incidents with. Enough jumps to think you know what you're doing but not enough to have seen shit go bad. I'm just going to try to keep that in mind and stay humble.
Enough jumps to think you know what you're doing but not enough to have seen shit go bad
Huge thanks to Kevin and Joe for taking time to talk to us. I'm so happy you're both ok. Next jump is on PussFoot! Stay Safe and Blue Skies!!