During their first attempt at a 2-way tube exit, one of the skydivers had both the reserve and cutaway handles released from the Velcro as they separated in freefall. Fortunately, neither handle was snagged and pulled — that would have been a lot worse!
Why did it happen
While this video doesn’t show the exact moment that the handles got caught, it’s possible that the second jumper’s heels snagged the handles as they were separating.
Tube exits are notorious for these types of incidents. During these exits there’s a lot of contact between jumpers and a higher possibility that something could get snagged. Another possible contributing factor is gear maintenance; the fact that both handles were stripped out of their Velcro housing could suggest that the Velcro was worn down.
How could it be prevented
If you launch an exit that includes a lot of contact between jumpers, consider the dive flow and discuss how you’re going to separate from one another in a manner that doesn’t leave you snagging each other’s gear. These jumpers said this was their first time (BEER!) attempting a tube exit; they may not have realized the dangers involved. If you’re doing something for the first time, make sure to get some input from more experienced jumpers.
On any jump, remaining vigilant about not grabbing/snagging/rubbing against handles is important. When choosing to do a jump which has an increased likelihood of such incidents, that need for spatial awareness only becomes greater.
There’s no way of telling from this video whether the Velcro on that rig was worn down. But the fact that both handles were stripped out of their housing makes it a possibility. During gear checks, jumpers should make sure their handles are secured well. If the Velcro starts wearing out, it needs to be changed out.