Friday Freakout: Skydiver Can’t Cutaway Parachute Malfunction, Fights To Save Her Life

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

A skydiver finds herself in a bad situation, fighting for her life after an incomplete cutaway that didn’t detach from one of the risers on the main canopy. As she spins uncontrollably, she deploys her reserve parachute just to get more fabric above her head, which ends up detaching the main parachute. But wait… there’s more: reserve line twists! Caution: she screams. A lot. Consider turning down the volume before you watch this one 🙂

Why did it happen?

The jumper didn’t tell us what the initial malfunction was, so who knows what happened. We do, however, clearly see the incomplete cutaway. There are a few possibilities about why the second riser didn’t detach:

  • Her cutaway cable may have been too long on the left side and when she pulled her handle it didn’t get to the three-ring release.
  • She may have not pulled his handle all the way; by not extending her arm far enough the second riser may have not released.
  • As noted by one rigger, if this individual had their cutaway cable misrouted outside of the metal hard housing, it’s possible that the pressure from the spin could have prevented the cable from extracting fully.

In all three cases, when the jumper pulled her reserve handle to get more fabric above her head, the opening shock of the reserve appears to have resolved the issue.

What could have prevented it?

Equipment maintenance and checks are a potential remedy. Had this jumper, and their rigger, done a thorough job examining the gear they should have caught cable length issues, misrouted cables, etc. When buying gear examine it to ensure that the cables are cut to the lengths to manufacturer specifications, this ensures both risers detach simultaneously. An incomplete pull could have been prevented by practicing emergency procedures. Jumpers should be in the habit of pulling their handles all the way out. If possible, jumpers should practice their EP’s in a hanging harness during Safety Day or when they bring in their reserve for a repack.

Other Thoughts

We talk about how different people have different solutions for line twists but the frantic kicking (and screaming) seen in this video are a decent example of why many people would suggest that a better option may be reaching up, grabbing the risers, and bringing them together to get the twists lower. The screaming and bicycle kicking method ultimately worked for this jumper, but it was certainly a scary situation.

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