This skydiver noticed he was dangerously close to the group ahead of him (now below him), so he pitched while trying to throw on the brakes with his body. The deployment was messy and the bridle wrapped around his foot. He then, “went directly to reserve without chopping because I figured the main was still in the d-bag in the container and I wanted to prevent a snag hazard with the risers.” The reserve deployed clean, he tried to cutaway the main, but it was still snagged on his foot. He then tried to use a hook knife to get rid of it, but he dropped the knife. With the main dragging behind him he had too much drag to get to the dropzone, and having lost altitude awareness, the jumper was forced to try to land in a wooded area with a small clearing. Fortunately, he was able to land between the trees and was, ultimately, uninjured.
Why did it happen
(The initial malfunction) Poor body position
As this jumper points out, upon seeing the group beneath him, he “applied deep brakes with my body to prevent entering their airspace. That set me up for a deployment with my feet very close to the rig.” This body position likely created a burble, which prevented a clean deployment and tossed the bridle into his feet.
(The proximity) The other group’s poor situational awareness
The jumper was wearing a Flysight and stated that the data showed that his group didn’t move much other than due to wind drift. He also stated that his video shows that, on a day with 4-6 seconds of separation, his group gave 8 seconds. That suggests that the group before them likely moved into their air space because they weren’t paying attention to whether they were moving up or down jump run.
(The snag) Out of Sequence Emergency Procedures
By not following the intended sequence for emergency procedures (cutaway first, then pull reserve) this jumper may have contributed to the process through which the main entangled around their foot. Having the reserve out, before cutting away, eliminated the possibility of the main having a chance to unsnag itself when the jumper went back into freefall for a moment.
How could it be prevented
Every packer in the world is going to be nodding their heads to this, but in this situation the body position was very likely to blame. We understand that the jumper was panicked due to his close proximity to other group below him, but had he gotten back into that good, stable, belly deployment position, this incident would have simply been about groups tracking into each other’s air space, and not about the bridle wrap.
This jumper lost all altitude awareness and didn’t look at his altimeter once while fighting through this malfunction. He stated that, “I tried to go for the dropzone but I had too much drag behind me to reach it.” However, based on the video, it looks like he thought about that aspect of the situation pretty far into the incident. Had he maintained altitude awareness he could have, potentially, made the decision to aim for the DZ earlier and been able to make it.