Skydive Incident – Update #1

Greetings of happiness and joy from Polk County, Florida.

It is sometimes difficult to know how to begin an orderly account of things; so firstly, let me thank you for your patience in awaiting this message.

Coming from Jackson, Michigan, I know well the importance of a strong hospital system and I am proud to report I’ve found another exemplary system in Polk County, at Lakeland Regional Health. The care and treatment I’ve received has been beyond all measure, and I ask everyone to join me in my deepest thoughts and prayers for my entire care team here.

Most importantly, I wish to continue to communicate the safety of modern skydiving and make clear a distinction: although I have been severely injured, I was not involved in a skydive ‘accident’ (an undesired outcome of a reasonable course of action,) rather an ‘incident’ (a reasonable outcome to an undesired course of action.) To be clear: my parachute system worked as designed and it flew exactly as I told it to: hard, fast, and straight to the ground. My body impacted the Earth at 78 mph at approximately a 45-degree pitch, 20-degree roll, and 5-degree yaw/sec. I then bounced 67 feet to my second point of impact and then tumbled another 100 feet before stopping. This was the result of my own intentional (and poorly made,) choices.

As a USPA rated AFF Skydive instructor, I believe in the mantra: “make better decisions, sooner”. And though I’ll leave the finer points of this discussion for my own students in person (or for you and your own local instructors,) for now suffice it to say that my first bad choice was not made at 100, 300, 500, or even 1000 feet, rather it began the moment I spotted and exited at 5500 feet. I spent my entire canopy flight trying to achieve an altitude and position that I could not and ultimately, I failed to select a safe alternate landing area by 2000 feet.

My second major mistake was the decision to execute my landing maneuver. As skydivers, we have a series of landing priorities that I ignored. At the moment I executed, I should have instead chosen to fly straight and level (into the RV park ahead,) rather than turn into a clear and open area. This was my failure to keep my ego in check. When we say “Go big or go home”, going home is the right choice. We can go big next time.

As a result of ignoring the tried and true training that every student receives before their first AFF skydive, I broke my pelvis in three places and received a spiral fracture of my left femur, and fractures to three vertebrae, T8, 10, & 12. I spent the first four days after my incident in a medically induced coma and awoke with some major mobility issues. In the last four days, I have experienced amazing recovery, with some functionality returning to all parts of my body. I am looking forward to my next surgery tomorrow to replace my external pelvic fixator with an internal version.

Lastly, in the spirit that every student does something right, I’ll share what I think my saving grace was: I did not stop flying. I flew all the way to the scene of the incident. I did not withdraw, even though I knew I could not win. In my final memory, I knew I was FUBAR and I smiled, continued to even the pressure on my rears, took a breath, and at the moment of impact, I did not resist – I exhaled and gave the best PLF of my life.

Always prepare to PLF.

Thank you for your continued prayers, more updates to come.