Tuesday, March 20, 2007

At long last, the best post ever, because it's true.

I was climbing at the Penn rock wall and ended up talking to the guy on duty, Travis. Travis relayed this story:

I was shopping in Home Depot when I met up with a former co-worker of mine, Alex. Alex is about 28 and runs a crew of 15 guys, they build houses and do roofs. Alex was built like a brick shit house, not too tall, but just muscular as hell, and he was a real take charge kind of guy, super intense. I asked him how he was doing and he said, 'Not too bad, I've more or less recovered from my accident. Almost 100%'
I had noticed that he looked a little skinnier than before, and his chin was differently shaped, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. Now I was curious though. "What happened to you?"
"You know I'm into skydiving right?" Alex said. "Yeah, it was a skydiving accident."
I was like, "NO WAY" and just couldn't believe it, how often do you hear of a skydiving accident in which someone survives?

The Story

Six months ago, Alex decided that he was finally going to take a skydiving lesson, but his wife was totally opposed, she said that there was no way that she would let him skydive with their two kids and another one on the way depending on his salary. Alex signed up for a lesson anyway, but kept it secret from his wife, and while pretending to do something else, snuck out and did one of the buddy jumps.
One jump and he knew that he was hooked. He went back home and watched the footage from the helmet cam over and over again. He signed up for a set of lessons the next day. As his wife didn't want him skydiving, he decided to do it without her knowledge; he snuck out at every chance he could get, an hour and a half was all the time necessary to get to the flight school do a jump and then get back home.

After about 4 months of this, Alex was still going strong, he had completed his 6 mandatory buddy jumps and was doing solo jumps from various altitudes. It so happened that on the day in question, the cloud cover had been too low for the plane to go up for most of the day, but by the time Alex arrived at about 3 in the afternoon, there was a small window of opportunity, time enough for just one jump. He hurried to get his chute and get to the plane before they took off, grabbing the nearest one and heading for the plane. Soon they were off and as he attempted to get the harness buckles around his chest, he noticed that the parachute that he'd grabbed was actually a small, wheras he normally wore a large. The buckles reached around his chest and legs and though they were pretty tight, he thought to himself, "What's the worst that could happen?"

After a 15 minute ascent, they reached jumping altitude and was out the door. The free fall portion went as expected but once the chute opened up at about 2500 feet Alex immediately noticed a problem. The tightness of the straps was quickly cutting off the blood circulation to his extremities, which in turn caused the blood flow to his head to decrease rapidly. by 1500 feet he was out cold and due to the small size of his parachute harness, his body was tilted forward into a nose dive position. Normally parachutists fall to earth at a speed of about 25 mph, but Alex, due to his head-down position and his inability to control for wind and such was estimated to have been heading tangentially in to land at about 50 miles per hour. The landing target had been an open field near a subdivision in South Jersey, and he was somewhat off target, blasting downward towards a neighborhing house with a 6 foot privacy fence and above ground pool.

The residents of the house were having drinks in their back patio as they noticed a parachutist hurtling downward towards their backyard at the speed of a highway vehicle. Alex came in about 5 feet off the ground and smashed head-first through the wooden privacy fence, and because of the position of his arms, he snapped his left forearm in two on one of the six by six support posts. His chin was smashed by either this impact or his next one with the side of the aboveground pool of the type with vinyl sides. As he hit the pool, he sent out a huge shower of water that sprayed water on the incredulous homeowners and he then skipped off the surface of the pool and over the top of their two story house where he came to rest on the edge of the driveway in front.

When the homeowners ran out front to see what the hell had just happened they found the parachutist in a state of shock, he had woken up, but had no idea what had happened to him and though his arm and chin were both shattered he attempted to get up and attack his rescuers screaming, "Who the hell just hit me? Why did you assholes just hit me? I'll Kill you!!" out of his broken face.

About an hour later his pregnant wife received a phone call from Ground Zero Dive School, "Ma'am, Alex had a bad landing, you might want to come down to the hospital." As he had kept his skydiving secret from her, she didn't know what to think and drove to the hospital. The first thing she saw as she was walking towards the ER was her husband with his jaw smashed open and his limp arm bandaged up, tubes running in and out of his body. She promptly freaked out and went into labor.

So three months after the impact, when this story was told, Alex was almost back to his former self. He was still waiting on a couple of surgeries to reshape his chin which had an odd point to it, and to repair one small piece of tendon in his arm. He assured Travis that he'd learned his lesson, "Never put on a parachute that is too small."
His wife had absolutely forbidden him from going anywhere near an airfield, but he had already signed up for the next session of dives in the spring.

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