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MacBusted updated

by Michael McHale (Mac/BASE 813)
  • Object: Gasometer (Circular Gas Tower)
  • Height: 210ft
  • Weather: Low winds, coming from behind at exit point.
  • Light: It was approx 11:30pm, and due to being in a near urban environment there was a lot of ambient light from street lighting.
  • Landing Area: Grass, uneven and sloped under exit point, proposed landing area is grass and flat.
  • No obstacles except one 50ft antenna to the left and approx 60ft from the exit point.
  • Equipment: Troll 265MDV, Gargoyle container. 46” ZP PC.
  • My experience on this object: I have freefalled this particular object 5 times previously using a Dagger266 and Wizard Velcro container.
  • Load: I was jumper number 3 out of 4 (jumper 4 walked down after my accident)
  • Notes

    Experience in type of jump: I have done quite a lot of freefalls in the 200 - 300 range, and was comfortable in taking freefalls with an unvented canopy and Velcro rig in this range. Experience with equipment: I had recently bought my Gargoyle and Troll MDV and before this jump had made the following jumps on it: 3 x 315ft A, 1 x 270ft E.

    The Jump

    On making this jump, I was very happy with my new container and canopy, although I had limited testing on it. I watched the first 2 jumpers (both with unvented canopies and pin rigs) take 1 second and have reasonable canopy time and flight and land perfectly. As I exited I intentionally hesitated in pitching my PC past 1 second of freefall, as I was comfortable to take it slightly lower. I took approx 1.5 to just under 2 seconds freefall before pitching my PC. On opening, I popped off my toggles to then flare immediately, as I did this, I had a break setting hang up on the right hand side. This turned me quite fast and looses my available altitude quickly and I hit in to uneven ground under the object very hard.


    I was jumping with a friend trained in severe trauma, who decided it was necessary to realign my dislocated foot. He checked for compound fractures, and then moved my foot back round near 180 degrees to about 20 degrees from normal. The landing area is surrounded by 10ft high spiked metal fencing. So one guy took all the rigs and ran back to his car and returned with a tool set. They proceeded to take out a section of the fencing where I was then carried through. They replaced the fencing and I was carried back to my car where I was then driven to hospital approx 60 miles away.


    I had severely dislocated and broke my ankle, and I also had snapped my tib cleanly and severely shattered my fib. My surgeon said that it was only my boots that stopped my tib breaking the skin and becoming compounded out of the bottom of my foot. I have received 3 surgeries, including realignment surgery on my ankle, replating and repining surgery after my fib started to split upwards after my first plates and pins, and also a bone graft to fill in the parts of shattered leg. I was on crutches for over 8 months.


    I now have been advised to wear orthotic inserts in my shoes for the rest of my life to counteract my collapsed arches and misalignment problems in my ankle. I have 14 pins and screws and a thick 6 inch plate that will be left inside my leg. I have degenerative arthritis from the shearing of cartilage (which will by its nature continue to get worse), and I walk with a limp every morning until my ankle warms up. I also lost my job due to my accident and time taken off work. I almost lost my girlfriend over the emotional problems encountered in recovery time. I have accumulated debt during my period of not working.


    Perceived Errors:
    • Over delay on low object
    • Use of equipment I was unfamiliar with on a “no room for error” jump
    • Over confidence with vented technology in low openings, this over confidence lead to error 1
    • Over confidence in my ability in the lower freefall ranges.

    Lessons Learnt:
    • Always jump with someone with trauma training
    • Always jump with a decent boot to protect your ankles
    • BASE will hurt you when you least expect it

    Final Notes

    I had been BASE jumping for two and a half years before this accident, and my first year of jumping I got carried away with the flow of excitement and did some pretty hardcore jumps. I stood back from this and realised I was lucky to get away with a lot during this time. I perceived myself to be a really safe and cautious jumper, who had climbed down more times than I had jumped (I did have my chicken BASE # before my BASE #). With my cautious approach in my second year, my over confidence crept up on me again and I made some serious misjudgements, that have now effected my whole life.

    I have had a lot of time for retrospect and thought. In returning to BASE exactly a year after my accident, I am more selective in my jumps, and more paranoid about injuries. Although I will still freefall from around the 230ft range, I am much more cautious and more aware of the problems that taking that extra bit can bring.

    BASE is serious, and to think death or injuries won’t ever touch your life is a serious error in misjudgement in its self.

    Submitted by Michael McHale (Mac/BASE 813) on 2008-05-11 | Last Modified by Mac on 2009-08-28

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