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Getting Hurt.. new

by Kevin McGuire

By Kevin McGuire

At first, all I felt was weightlessness. The sensation was peaceful and serene. But then came the acceleration and I watched as the super structure of the bridge moved quickly past my feet. Clear of the steel and free falling into the moon lit canyon below I was acutely aware of how alone in the darkness I was.

I was beyond the help of others. After 3 seconds, I felt the wind on my face and heard the roar of it in my ears. It was pull time. I reached back, grabbed the pilot chute, and with one smooth motion, pulled it from its pouch and threw it into the wind. With great anticipation, I waited to hear the familiar ripping sound of Velcro as the rig opened. Instead, I felt nothing; nothing except more acceleration.

I figured that the pilot chute must be trapped in my burble. I rolled onto my side with the hope that I might be able let clean air spill past and inflate the pilot chute. Nothing happened. I looked, but saw nothing. It was too dark, and while I could not see what was happening, I knew the pilot chute was not doing what it must for me to survive. It was then that the most terrible thought entered my brain. The best explanation (if you can call it that) of why the pilot chute was not inflating was because I must have somehow misrouted it through a leg strap. The realization of the seriousness of my situation was like a baseball bat to the head.

No pilot chute means no parachute, and no parachute means no tomorrow.

It was then that everything began moving in slow motion and I lost all sense of time. I reached back and clawed at the flaps of my container in the desperate hopes of ripping it open and then maybe, just maybe my parachute might still open in time. In rapid succession, I experienced the most intense emotions of my life. Shock that things were going so badly, terror of what awaited me on the rocks below, and anger at my self for the pain I was about to inflict upon my family and those precious few who love me.

My life did not flash before my eyes. Instead, the faces of the two people in the world that meant the most to me filled my vision. The way things were going, I knew that would be the last time I would see them.

Time was a blur. “How much of it has passed? How long have I been in free fall?” Something caught my eye, I looked left, and in an instant, I had my answer. There was Seth, standing on the hiking trail/landing area, his parachute draped over his shoulder, watching helplessly as I fell past him and deeper into the canyon. It was then that I looked down, and for the first time I saw the rocks coming up fast. One rock was large, jagged and still. Everything else around it was a blur. That rock would not flinch. That rock would not move. That rock was not going to feel pain and that rock is were I was going to die.

As I free fell through the last 60 feet of my life, a profound sense of deep peaceful calm washed over me. No sound. No fear. No panic. No remorse. Only calm. Calm like I had never experienced before in my life. It was my time and I was ready.

And then… SLAM. All of the neurons in my brain fired at once and registered as a blinding flash of white light in my eyes.

“This is strange; I’m looking down at the rock. Why am I not a bloody disintegrated mess lying on top of it? Is my soul hovering above my grave and is this my last dying thought?”

Like a needle being scratched off a vinyl record, I was yanked back to reality. I was not dead. I was under my partially opened parachute. The parachute, not yet fully pressurized, surged violently to the left and threw me like a rag doll, straight at the very steep and heavily wooded canyon slope.

With no time to prepare for it, I hit hard. As soon as I hit, I began clutching wildly for anything that might keep me from falling backwards and into the raging river just a few short feet behind me. My parachute became snagged high up in a tall tree over my head. If it had fallen into the water, the parachute would most certainly have dragged me into the fast moving river, and sealed my fate.

As I stood there trembling uncontrollably, it became clear that I had more adrenalin coursing through my veins at that moment than at any other time in my entire life. There was no pain, but judging by how hard I hit, I knew pain was on the way. Starting at my hips, I reached down with both hands, and quickly checked to see if I had any bones sticking out. I felt nothing. Nothing was good.

Realizing that the adrenaline was masking the pain, I took off my rig, left it lying where I landed, and I started climbing up the slope. It wouldn’t be long before moving on my own became impossible. Half way up the slope, I saw Seth. He was 30 feet away and closing fast. He yelled, “Are you alright?” “No” I yelled back. “I think I’m hurt bad but can’t feel it yet. Please, grab my gear, I’ll try to make it to the pick up point while I still can.

” I made it up the slope, onto the hiking trail, and started a very wobbly walk to where a car was waiting. I was moving, but not in a way that I ever had before. It felt almost as if my legs were no longer attached to my body and walking a straight line was totally out of the question.

An unknown number of steps later, the pain set in. Unable to take another step, I collapsed on the path as a tidal wave of pain slammed into me over and over again. It was my knees. I had hyper extended them and the pain was spectacular.

In the time it took Seth to collect my gear and reach me where I lay, both of my knees had swollen to the size of basketballs. Thankfully when he did reach me, he had with him one of the other jumpers who had jumped before me. Seth and Corky each grabbed an arm and carried my ass the rest of the way out. And for that, I owe them big time.

Later on, back at the hotel, a group of jumpers came by to welcome me back from the brink. They gave me a big bottle of rum, bags of ice, and I proceeded to self-medicate and ponder what had just happened.

Seth later told me that when he saw me fall past him as he stood on the trail; my parachute was almost at line stretch. If the parachute had come out of the container a fraction of a second later, this story would have ended differently and I would not be the one telling it.

I’m told that while in free fall, I let out the most blood curdling scream of terror that no one in attendance had ever heard before. I don’t remember doing that and I never heard a thing, but if I did, who can blame me? Certainly not those who have YET to experience what I went through that night.

I never did find out for sure why the pilot chute took so long to inflate. No one saw a thing. The most logical explanation points to the way I folded the pilot chute. Not misrouting as I had believed.

Back then, not much was known about jumping with the pilot chute stowed in its pouch and only a hand full of jumpers that I knew of were doing it. Up to that point, I had always jumped with it in my hand. Not knowing any better and having no one around to teach me the proper method, I folded the pilot chute as cleanly as I could, much like I would have if I were making a skydive. I believe that the extra time it took for the pilot chute to unfurl was the cause of the extended delay and only when I started kicking and flailing for my life did the pilot chute actually begin to work. It was my first time going stowed and while going stowed soon became all the rage in the BASE jumping, it took me another 6 years before I would try it again.

That chilly night in the spring of 94 will for ever be etched upon my soul. I almost became a cautionary tale.

I believe that event changed my life far more than any other event before or since. It opened my eyes to what is truly important in this world. The connections we make and the people we hold dear are all that matters. Everything else is just noise.

For many years to follow, I held the dubious distinction of holding the record for being the guy who opened the lowest at that particular bridge. Ten years later, some unfortunate fellow broke that record and many of his bones in the precess, but thankfully, he survived to tell the tale. I hope that one day he does.

Submitted by Kevin McGuire on 2008-05-11

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.  | Votes: 32 | Comments: 9 | Views: 6936

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9 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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5 out of 5 stars avesome storie...
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5 out of 5 stars man, thanx 4 sharing!
take care, play safe!
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scary stuff but a good lesson that skydiving is not base.
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Really moving story! It is interesting that it is a story about only few seconds.. That is just great! I'm glad that it is You who is telling it.
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Sick... first stowed is a Big new step, happy you did not give up and "landed"
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5 out of 5 stars Great story! Glad you made it.
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Wonderful story with a happy ending. Working my way back to base, after a 3 year layoff from a base injury and building a house; started skydiving again.
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5 out of 5 stars great story, very well written!
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u got talent ,,,,,,in writting ,,,i give u that ..... :)

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