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Lethal Packjob

Reserve ripcord (metal with the eye) is incorrect, it should be around the curved pin
Reserve ripcord (metal with the eye) is incorrect, it should be around the curved pin

A jumper checked his reserve flap before jumping and found that a rigger had performed a potentially lethal reserve repack. If this jumper had suffered a total malfunction and pulled the reserve ripcord handle (with or without cutting away) the reserve pin would have stayed firmly closed….

If you find yourself with a complex emergency at 2,500 feet above the ground your useful life expectancy is ten seconds

…until, hopefully an AAD would have cut the loop and thereby released the reserve, OR the skydiver had pulled the RSL – not a normal part of malfunction drills, not many people would have thought of that in the 10 seconds or so before impact.

Without an AAD this could have been lethal.

(If, on the other hand, the jumper had experienced a spinning malfunction then the RSL would have worked as intended and opened the reserve container.)

Because this skydiver caught the bad rigging before ever putting the rig on for a jump, the problem did not go into freefall. This is a testament to thoroughly checking our own gear and the importance of being knowledgeable about that which we are checking.

If someone asks you to check their reserve flap, you should know exactly what you looking for. If in any doubt, ask. Never assume it's okay.

If you’re not sure what is wrong with the set-up, compare with the pictures below, showing the correct set-up, with the eye of the reserve ripcord through the curved pin of the RSL. Pulling the ripcords below would open the reserve flaps, whereas pulling the ripcord at the top of the page would do absolutely nothing.

Reserve flap on Javelin showing correct set-up — by Mark Harris
Reserve flap on Javelin showing correct set-up — by Mark Harris
Reserve flap on Vector showing correct Skyhook set-up — by Seth Parr
Reserve flap on Vector showing correct Skyhook set-up — by Seth Parr

Always check your gear

FFI about RSLs see RSL, Skyhook or Faith? by Dan BC

Addendum

I've just been updated that the owner of the rig actually jumped it in this condition at their home drop zone before the problem was picked up in a gear check at a DZ the owner was visiting. Well done the rigger checking it at that DZ ! The owner was a relatively new skydiver (around 100 jumps), which perhaps explains a feeling that 'the rigger must have known best'. Nevertheless, considering you trust your life to your equipment then you need to understand the basics.

Comments (2)

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Nigel Holland

That's one hell of a f*** up from that rigger!!

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Stephen Dalrymple

How about some info for older 60+years old beginning to learn skydiving such as older jumpers friendly dropzones. I have found instructors lack patience with older jumpers and are quick to be rid of them for normal beginner mistakes. Some lack the gift of instilling confidence in their older jumpers.

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