This was a fluke accident that involved a snagged smoke canister on a ninja jump with very experienced skydivers. On exit, the metal edge of the smoke canister mounted to this jumper's foot caught on his buddy’s container. Fortunately, the cord used to ignite the smoke snapped… because this jumper was using military-grade hot smoke, which could have made things a lot worse had it ignited.
For the most part, this incident happened simply because there were a lot of people rubbing up on each other on exit -- and not the good kind of rubbing 😉 They were packing a lot of people both inside and outside the door and that type of cramped space leads to close contact. It drastically increases the chances of one person’s gear catching on someone else’s. Even if this wasn’t a smoke jump it could have been something else that snagged, like a camera.
Most jumpers are cognizant about the every-day snag hazards that they encounter while skydiving. The edges of the door in a plane, exposed bolts on helicopter skids, cameras, etc. In this case, however, these jumpers were using a piece of equipment that most jumpers don’t utilize on a regular basis: smoke canisters and brackets. Not using smoke brackets regularly may have contributed to a lack of situational awareness regarding their potential as a snag hazard. To their credit, they stated they'd gone through a briefing regarding these dangers and attempted to put tape over potential snag points. At the end of the day, there’s no way to completely eliminate these risks.
We note in this video that the smoke canister which snagged on the other jumper’s rig did not fire due to the cord having broken. They were using a cord rated to break at 80 lbs but it appears to – fortunately – have snapped with far less weight applied to it. We say fortunately because they were using hot smoke which, at that proximity to the other jumper’s rig, could have caused some serious damage. Many jumpers prefer hot smoke because it is thicker, brighter, and simply looks better but it is important to be aware of the inherent risks of using it versus a colder burning smoke.
Also, we want to give a big shout out to Jesse Weyher for sharing this video with us so others can learn from this incident. Follow him on Instragram -- he's a pretty badass skydiver, competitive swooper and all-around awesome dude. He also loves burritos and long walks on the beach.