On a 5-way jump, this skydiver did a barrel roll after break-off to clear his airspace and had an unstable deployment that opened into spinning line twists. He was also unstable when he cutaway, and when his RSL deployed his reserve, the reserve bridle wrapped around his GoPro Fusion (360 camera). Fortunately the plastic buckle on the camera snapped off, allowing his freebag to extract. He was under reserve by 1,800 ft and landed safely.
Why did it happen
The jumper stated he did not finish the barrel roll before deploying his main. He believes the deployment bag came out slightly sideways, created line twists, and asymmetrical risers sent the canopy into a diving spin.
Cameras are a snag hazard. Any equipment added to a skydiver’s gear or body that can potentially catch a line, canopy fabric, a bridle, etc., adds risk.
How could it be prevented
Stabilization Prior to Deployment
This jumper made a safe and appropriate decision in doing a barrel roll to ensure another skydiver wasn’t immediately above them prior to pitching. However, a barrel roll is inherently an unstable maneuver and – so long as it does not force them to deploy at an unsafe altitude – a jumper should recover from an unstable body position prior to deploying their main.
Minimize Snag Hazards
Obviously the only way to eliminate camera-related snag hazards is to jump without a camera. But we know that’s not going to happen… so we’ll refer to the USPA SIM (section 6-8, section D) which contains a long list of the ways that jumpers can (and should!) minimize the potential for snags while flying with cameras. This includes facing snag hazards away from deploying parachutes, pyramid shaped mounts, and taping gaps between helmets and equipment.
Where the GoPro Broke
A lot of jumpers use a GoPro and assume that in a snag situation the adhesive on the mount will peel away. This thought process leads many to, incorrectly, believe the GoPro is not really a snag hazard. This instance is an excellent example of why they are wrong because in this situation the plastic actually snapped before the adhesive let go.
Disconnecting the RSL
This jumper noted that maybe he should have considered disconnecting his RSL prior to cutting away. There are two sides to the debate on this issue.
— In favor of disconnecting: As noted in the USPA section on camera flying, an RSL “could deploy the reserve during instability following a cutaway, increasing the chances for the reserve entangling with the camera system, especially a poorly designed one.” However, that section is aimed at full time camera-flyers who do it professionally so it’s arguable whether it really applies to fun-jumpers who are simply tossing a GoPro on once in awhile.
— Against disconnecting: Disconnecting an RSL is not something that many jumpers practice and – especially during a chaotic malfunction – taking the time to locate, grab, and disconnect an RSL could place a jumper at a dangerously low altitude. The time spent fumbling around would almost certainly go against the guidance provided in the USPA’s recent “Don’t Delay, Cut Away” campaign.
One of the greatest things about skydiving is that it’s an awesome community. We all want to take care of each another and no one wants to see their buddy lose a main or a free-bag. That being said… DON’T try to catch them while under canopy! It’s potentially a very dangerous decision that could end badly. It’s hard to tell if that’s what the second jumper was doing, or whether they just happened to fly towards the main while watching the jumper with the delayed reserve deployment, but we thought it’s worth mentioning.