Friday Freakout: Inexperienced Skydiver Skims Opening Parachute In Freefall

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This was a three-way jump with some inexperienced skydivers who were off-level and lost track of each other in the sky, which resulted in a very close call as the camera flyer skimmed past an opening canopy in freefall.

Why did it happen

Inexperienced Jumpers

During this three-way belly jump, the third jumper sunk out and the second jumper wasn’t going to him. So – ostensibly in order to make him get on level with the low man – the jumper with the camera decided he “would introduce him to a fruit loop.” The jumpers were not able to get back together, lost track of one another, and the individual who had been “fruit-looped” opened below the camera-flyer.

These three were not able to stay on level and were not able to stay in proximity to one another. Effectively, they were spread halfway across the sky both laterally and vertically. They did not have the body flight skills (that should be) required for them to jump together.

Bad Decisions

“Fruit-looping” someone to get them on level is simply a bad decision. An jumper who’s unable to control their body well enough to get to someone lower is unlikely to have the skills or experience needed to recover from a surprise unstable maneuver and get over to the group. The more likely outcome will be disorientation.

For newer jumpers who are unfamiliar with the term, a “fruit-loop” is when during a belly two-way one jumper takes the other’s hands, unexpectedly punches into a sit or a stand, and lets go. When properly executed, the maneuver throws the second jumper across the sky in an unstable tumble. It can be fun and silly but, as seen in this video, it can also disorient jumpers and should only be done under controlled circumstances.

How could it be prevented

Internal Reality Checks

Newer jumpers (and some more experienced ones) need to realize that combining their lack of skill with the lack of skill of other jumpers, can be a dangerous mix. In this case it appears that none of these jumpers were able to stay on level with one another or stay near one another; an honest self-assessment would have told them that they probably shouldn’t be doing a three-way together.

External Reality Checks

If the jumpers themselves aren’t realizing that they’re making poor decisions then more experienced jumpers, instructors, coaches, and dropzone staff should be asking questions and helping the newer individuals stay safe.

Belly Basics

Presumably the camera-flyer had at least 200 jumps. Their inability to stay situationally aware and their failure to get on level with the other jumpers after their “fruit loop” of the second jumper, calls into question their belly-flying skills. This is, unfortunately, a more and more common occurrence as skydivers seek to jump from AFF directly into free-flying with the cool kids.

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