Friday Freakout: Spicy Opening, Skydiver’s Parachute Incorrectly Assembled by Rigger

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This relatively inexperienced jumper asked a rigger to connect her canopy. Later that day she completed a few jumps, and then on her last one for the day she turned, tracked, and pitched. As her main deployed she immediately noticed that one of her risers was not connected so she followed her emergency procedures, cut away, and landed safely on her reserve canopy.

Why did it happen

Incorrect Assembly

This jumper had given her canopy over to a rigger for assembly and they did not connect the slinks properly. After the canopy was recovered, it was confirmed by a master rigger that all four slinks were incorrectly routed/connected. The jumper had already put multiple jumps on the canopy before this incident finally — and inevitably — happened.

Lack of Knowledge

This was a newer jumper and, realistically, most newer jumpers don’t know how to connect a canopy. Most jumpers simply pack their main and handle minor issues; for everything else they trust a licensed rigger. She had no idea how to inspect her gear after it was given back to her and didn’t catch a major mistake.

How could it be prevented

Diligence

This rigger screwed up. This is a serious mistake that should not have happened. The consequences were just a cutaway and a very scary few minutes, but they could have been a lot more serious; consider what could have happened had this slink given out as the jumper was turning onto final. Being a rigger is a serious job and those doing it need to be infinitely more diligent about checking their work and protecting the jumpers who trust them with their lives.

Accountability

This is an inherently dangerous sport and jumpers are morally obligated to keep one another safe. If this rigger had a history of questionable performance, and no one said anything, anyone who stayed quiet shared some responsibility for this incident. Jumpers need to take care of one another, and part of that obligation is having the guts to go up to someone and tell them that they screwed up and need to own it. Or, if they’re not getting the message, going to the powers that be whether that be an S&TA, a DZO, USPA, or the FAA.

Gear Knowledge

We already noted that many jumpers don’t know enough about their rigs to check the work of a rigger. But they should always be attempting to learn more. If you’re friends with your rigger, check if you can watch them work on your gear, ask questions, and keep trying to expand your knowledge base. Further, never trust anyone else implicitly, double check anyone’s work when you can. That includes making sure that your packers cocked your pilot chute, didn’t use a worn-out closing loop, and seated your pin all the way.

Additional Notes

Emergency Procedures

Props to this newer jumper for instantly recognizing that this was a situation that needed an immediate cutaway. She was screaming but her training kicked in within half a second. She not only cutaway, but she reached across with both hands to do so. Some observers pointed out that, having shorter arms, she may have also wanted to swipe any remaining cable… but given that she pulled it out so far that she was able to drop it we think she did a damn good job. Credit also goes to her instructors who evidently drilled her EP’s in pretty well.

Tracking and Waving Off

Track farther and do the “waving off” thing. Given the rest of this video, those are pretty minor observations, but we figured we’d throw them in there before someone else does.

A Note from TEEM

Before anyone asks: No. We don’t know who this rigger is. And even if we did, we wouldn’t post their name or refer them to the powers that be. Teem is here to spread knowledge that can keep skydivers safe. To a certain degree, we’re journalists and we have an ethical obligation to keep sources private and not dox people. If we violate that trust, no one will want to share their stories and this fantastic system of sharing lessons learned will fall apart. That does not, however, contradict our earlier note where we stated that jumpers need to protect one another by coming forward about unsafe practices.