Friday Freakout: Skydiver’s Reserve Handle Accidentally Pulled On Exit (But Didn’t Open)

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

While climbing to altitude, this three-way belly group changed the exit plan. Shockingly – yes, that was sarcasm – there was a bunch of confusion in the door. When Jumper 1 started to climb out, Jumper 2 didn’t realize he was going to the camera step. He exited, reached out for the first jumper, and snagged the D-handle as he tumbled out. Somehow the pin was not dislodged, and the jumper safely deployed at normal altitude, and landed his main.

Why did it happen

Confusion

The first jumper thought he was getting onto the camera step. The second jumper thought he was chasing him out the door. So, when Jumper 1 got out, Jumper 2 followed and – in a confused panic – reached for the first jumper not knowing what was going on.

Poor situational awareness

Before the group even exited, the second jumper already came very close to grabbing Jumper 1’s D-handle while still in the plane. He thought that the first jumper was exiting too soon and grabbed him to hold him in the plane and check the spot. He didn’t realize how close his hand was to that handle.

How could it be prevented

Planning

When you decide on a dive flow or an exit, don’t start changing plans while you’re in the plane. Given that Jumper 1 was relatively new (60 jumps), the more experienced jumpers should have just stuck with the plan they had agreed with on the ground. Had they just gone with the original plan, all the chaos in the door would have probably been avoided.

Watch those handles!

There’s really no excuse for – not once, but twice – almost snagging someone’s reserve handle on climb-out or exit. It doesn’t matter if you’re exiting linked, chasing, or whatever – never blindly grab at someone’s rig.

Additional Notes

Worst case scenario

This could have been a REALLY bad day because, had that reserve deployed while Jumper 1 was trying to get onto the camera step, it could have taken out the plane’s tail/horizontal stabilizer and brought down the plane.

Reserve cables

The reserve cable got pulled out quite a bit on exit but didn’t pull the pin on the reserve. One rigger reviewing this video noted that, while it was somewhat fortunate that a deployment didn’t occur due to the previously mentioned risk (above) to the plane, there are also some questions about why that reserve didn’t get deployed.

Good communication

While not visible in the video, the jumpers stated that everyone on the jump knew that something was wrong. Jumper 2 claims he was attempting to explain to Jumper 1 that something had happened and Jumper 3 didn’t know what was going on but got the impression that they needed to abandon their dive flow and just bring it down. While this whole situation was somewhat sketchy, it would have been a lot worse had someone flown over Jumper 1 right before a reserve fire happened. Attempting to stay on level but at a distance was the right call.

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