This jumper, with only around 400 jumps, was evidently “learning to swoop.” To quote the notes provided with this video submission, “As you can tell, the turn was too low.” The only additional information provided was a list of injuries: lumbar spine fractures at L3, L4, and L5, a fractured and displaced tailbone, a chipped bone in the heel, and two broken toes.
Why did it happen
Fools rush in
Swooping looks cool and lots of baby jumpers see folks skimming the pond and that’s all they want to learn. There’s nothing wrong with that! However, between the video and the jump numbers, it’s possible this individual was pushing the envelope too quickly and wasn’t getting proper instruction.
How could it be prevented
As this guy impacts you can see his shadow and his hands are still on his rear risers. It looks like he didn’t even think about going to toggles. To quote one experienced jumper, “It’s like someone offered him a big ‘SAVE YOUR LIFE’ button and his response was, ‘Naw, I’m good!’” One of the basic drills some canopy coaches teach new swoopers to do is a turn at altitude, build up speed and then stab out on toggles. Partially it’s so that they learn muscle memory of what to do if they’re seeing what this guy saw. The other part is to learn how much toggle pressure you need in order to pull out of a turn. (If you haven’t done it, it’s likely a lot more than you think.)
Aspiring swoopers should find professional coaches. Some jumpers spend tens of thousands of dollars on tunnel time but then just start downsizing their canopy, thinking that’s the key to swooping. It’s not. The best canopy pilots can take a lightly loaded Sabre 2 and tear across a pond relying on skill. (Hell, there are wingsuiters out there who are known to come across the landing area pulling freestyle moves on Pilot 7’s.) Learning to swoop isn’t just about getting a tiny canopy, it’s about knowing how to get every bit out of the canopy you’re already flying.
Again, we don’t have much background on this jumper’s situation but it’s possible no one at their DZ was telling them to slow down and get coaching or this jumper was ignoring advice. If it’s the former, the folks who know this guy need to do a better job fostering a safe environment. If it’s the latter, someone at the DZ should have grounded him before he put himself in a situation to potentially get himself killed.