Friday Freakout: Target Fixation, Skydiver Slams Into Parked Truck In The Desert

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

This incident of a skydiver hitting a parked truck in the middle of the desert is a cringe-worthy example of target fixation, which resulted in four broken vertebrae, a broken rib, a dislocated hip and a sprained wrist. He will make a full recovery, and he shared this video “in the hopes that other jumpers can benefit from these lessons in a pain free way.”

What happened

On final this jumper decided that, rather than land away from other jumpers and walk back, he would land by the retrieval truck. As he came in, he felt a slight crosswind pushing him towards the vehicle and started looking at it. Predictably, he slammed into the side of the truck.

Why did it happen

Target Fixation

When jumpers see an object that they really want to avoid, they often keep staring at it… and don’t realize that their bodies are directing their canopies straight towards the obstacle they should be avoiding. The jumper i this incident admitted that target fixation got the best of him.

Complacency

This jumper was jumping on the last day of a boogie and admits that he was “tired, hungry, thirsty, full of adrenaline and generally over-confident.” After partying and jumping for a few days, many skydivers simply aren’t mentally fit to jump out of a plane.

How could it be prevented

Better Decision Making on the Ground

There’s nothing wrong with waking up on the Sunday of a big boogie – or any day for that matter – and saying “Naw… I’m not getting on a plane today.” (This author has a general rule that the Sunday of a boogie is a day of rest and mimosas.) Many jumpers feel that if they’re at a dropzone they MUST jump, but that can be a recipe for disaster.

Better Decision Making in the Air

As this jumper noted, “I never should have attempted to land near that truck. By choosing to land near an obstacle, I went from having very wide margins of error to almost no margin for error.” His choice to cut his walk time down by landing near the vehicle placed him in a precarious position where he had few options.

Additional Note

The jumper noted in his submission that he suffered a broken rib, four broken vertebrae, a sprained wrist, dislocated hip, and superficial bruises and cuts. He also said that it’s very likely that the jumpers who immobilized him and stabilized his head prevented him from becoming paralyzed. He was fortunate that there were several medical professionals on his load. They knew that keeping a patient with a possible spinal cord injury from moving around can help prevent further harm. It’s an important concept that jumpers should be aware of when assisting a fellow skydiver who’s had a hard landing.