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BASE Jumping: Articles: Stories: Summer of 1995

Summer of 1995

by Kevin McGuire

By Kevin McGuire

I had the coolest job a skydiver/BASE jumper could ever want. I worked for Performance designs, the world’s largest and most respected sport parachute manufacture, and I was in charge of the west cost demo tour. Basically my duties were to drive around the country in a motor home, visit skydiving centers in almost every state west of the Mississippi, and allow jumpers at each drop zone to try our parachutes, free of charge, all in the hopes of wining their businesses.

As one might expect, the tour became my means of scouring the US in search of new BASE sights. When I could not find the sights on my own or they were too sensitive, I would call around to the various BASE manufactures and get numbers and names of locals to hook up with. This strategy worked and worked well but keeping my activities concealed from PD was paramount. After all, I didn’t want to up set the apple cart.

One Sunday afternoon, my partner Seth and I were finishing up a weekend at a DZ in Colorado and we decided to start our search for the object we would be jumping that week. We opened our newly acquired aircraft sectional that showed a nice 2000’ antenna tucked neatly away in an isolated corner of Nebraska. As luck would have it, it was on our way to our next stop. After a few hours of driving, we found our selves at the base of the tower. Fifteen minuets later, the elevator was running.

Wasting no time, we both made two quick jumps that night before falling asleep in the van at the base of the tower waiting for sun to come up. When the sun came up, we got busy. It was when we landed from our second jumps that we came up with what can only be described as a hair brained idea of spectacular proportions. Instead of wasting time packing our BASE rigs and going again, why not jump some of the skydiving rigs we had in the van? After all, the tower was 2000’ was it not? Hell, that’s almost a skydive. What could possible go wrong? I love hind sight.

Things went fine for a while. We’d take a leisurely elevator ride to the top of the tower and away we’d go. Once on the ground, we’d toss the recently opened rigs into a pile and grab another from the van. We made sure the rigs we choose all had large canopies in them. This we reasoned would be the safest. On the fifth jump I found out just how wrong we were.

It was our fifth jump of the day and Seth went first. As he fell away, he quickly became a tiny dot, barely visible against the ground below until his brightly colored saber 210 opened right on heading. He landed on the freshly plowed dirt below, and now it was my turn.

Sporting a fancy new Javelin J-5, complete with a PD210 main and a PD218R reserve, I launched. As I free fell, I caught sight of Seth standing below. I decided that it would be cool to track right at him and take it nice and low in order to give him the best visual if the jump. As I tracked straight for him, he grew larger and larger when suddenly I noticed that I could see he was laughing. I figured that was probably a good time to pull.

Everything up to this point was going smoothly but that was about to change. I reached for and pulled the pilot chute from its pouch and pitched it into the air. That was the precise moment that absolutely nothing happened. Wouldn’t you know it? I looked over my shoulder and saw that the pilot chute was not inflated. Of all the rotten luck… Any way, realizing that I had no time to mess around, I went straight for the reserve rip cord handle. I pulled, and felt the familiar pop as the reserve pilot chute launched of my back.

A split second later I was open. I looked up expecting to see my reserve canopy but instead I saw that my main parachute had finally decided to get in the game, but there was a catch. The canopy had severe line twists below the slider and, to make matters worse, it was flying straight towards the tower. There was no way I’d be able to kick out of the line twists before I spanked the steel.

Just then, I felt something tugging on my right foot. I looked and saw that the bridle of the reserve pilot chute had some how become entangled with my foot and out of the corner of my eye I could see the free bag falling away. I grabbed the bridle and attempted to pull it in before the canopy came out of the D-bag but I was not fast enough. The canopy came out of the D-bag and began to inflate. It was about this time that I noticed that I was getting very close to the tower and my line twists were not getting any better.

With only one option left (and not a very good one at that), I quickly pulled the cutaway handle, taking the chance that the now inflating reserve might do a better job of saving my life than my main had been doing. I dropped away from the main and under the inflating reserve and wouldn’t you know it, the damn thing also had major line twists below the slider, but this time, thankfully, it was flying away from the tower (finally some good luck).

I had no time to kick out of the line twits before landing and landing was rough. Were it not for the freshly plowed dirt surrounding the base of the tower, I’m sure that I would have been injured. I lay there for a moment stunned and took a quick mental inventory. Realizing I had survived, finally stood up began knocking the dirt out of my ears and hair when Seth came running up to me laughing hysterically. It took him a good two or three minuets to calm down just enough to say, “Well Kev, I gotta say, there’s never a dull moment when jumping with you.”

Submitted by Kevin McGuire on 2007-06-19

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