Friday Freakout: Skydiver Slashes Main Parachute With Hook Knife, Avoids Entanglement With Reserve Parachute

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This crazy incident started off with a bag lock malfunction that quickly turned into a one-in-a-million freak accident — the hard housing passed through the 3-ring assembly — which had to be cut way with a hook knife to avoid an entanglement with her reserve.

Why did it happen

The Initial Malfunction

We can’t see the initial malfunction, but the jumper said it was a bag lock. Bag locks occur for a wide variety of reasons, but most are related to improper packing procedures. Often the mistake is putting too much excess line through a stow and creating a large “bite” that can then catch and lock onto a neighboring bite on the d-bag during the deployment process.

The Incomplete Cutaway

It appears that in, what can only be described as a freak accident, this jumper’s hard housing passed through the second ring on her 3-ring-assembly and prevented a clean cutaway of her main parachute. Her rig was inspected, and it was confirmed that her container was properly assembled. One rigger we consulted believes that the exposed hard housing was possibly whipping around and could have passed through the second ring before the reserve deployment created enough pull to cause the cutaway to occur.

How could it be prevented

Bag locks

Diligent packing is the key here. When packing a parachute, skydivers should make sure they’re doing it slowly, taking each step one at a time, and not rushing. Complacency often occurs even with the most experienced jumpers because they’re chatting with one another during a pack job or rushing to make a call. Jumpers should make sure to not put too much excess lines through their stows; no more than 2 inches, which can help prevent the stows from potentially catching on one another. One instructor who viewed this video also noted that forgetting to cock a pilot chute could have potentially caused this incident; the main could have left the container but, without the snatch force from a pilot chute to pull through a tight stow, it could have stayed in the deployment bag until the jolt from the reserve opening finally started the deployment.

The Incomplete Cutaway

As noted earlier, this appears to have been a one-in-a-million event that can only be written off to divine intervention. Some incidents cannot be prevented but, fortunately, this jumper was heads-up enough to recognize what she needed to do.

Additional Notes

Hook Knives

A DZM I know once argued that hook knives should be a mandatory piece of equipment included in gear checks. This video is the perfect example of just how important a hook knife can be to saving your life. Notably, the jumper in this video said she only started carrying a hook knife a week before this incident and never thought she would need to use it. We’re really happy she did.

Canopy Separation

We also wanted to note that this jumper does an excellent job preventing these two canopies from entangling. She knew that the spinning main canopy posed a risk and did a good job keeping it away from her reserve while she got out her hook knife for the (literal) cut away.