After what looks like a bit of a zoo jump, these jumpers wound up very far off the dropzone. They appear to have attempted to get back to the landing area, and when they realized they couldn’t, were forced to land off. This jumper got very lucky and, with very few options to pick from – and a lot of power lines and telephone lines around – managed to set down in a backyard… but clipped a tree in the process, probably because he was bailing at the last second to avoid the fence or a tree!
The jumper who submitted this video was the first to admit, "My job to check spot…Failed. Whole group landed off." That's as succinct a point as can be made and we'll leave it at that!
Check Your Spot!
Never trust the green light and never trust the group in front of you. Before you get out of the plane, if you're the first person getting out for your group, take a look down and make sure you're getting out close enough to the dropzone to get back safely. If the group behind you starts yelling at you to get out, tell them that the green light came on too early and that you're not getting out until you're in a safe location to do so. You owe it to yourself, and to the rest of your group who are depending on you to make the decision for them. If you're unfamiliar with the dropzone or uncomfortable checking the spot, ask someone who is from the area to do it. Tandem videographers are particularly great about helping out with this!
Earlier Choices/Situational Awareness
When you know you’re not going to make it to the dropzone, you need to start looking around immediately and finding the best opportunity for where you can land. Every second that you’re losing altitude, you’re also losing options. The earlier you make a decision, the more likely you are to find a safe spot to set down. (That matters even more when you’re flying a performance canopy which is going to need a bit more room to land.) Further, when you find yourself in a bad spot, it’s important to look around for ALL your options. You know how in the briefing the flight attendants tell you that in an emergency, the closest exit may be behind you? Well, that applies here as well! One thing we never see this jumper do is look behind themselves to see if there were any good landing options in the other direction.*
Fun fact! This was the dropzone where the post author/editor had his first off-landing! He wound up trusting the group ahead of him, who had gotten out without checking the spot, and it turns out the green light had come on early. He was in the same area as these jumpers and will be the first to admit there are not a lot of great options. However, he brings up the point about looking in the other direction because that’s where he landed, and, at least five or six years ago, there were a few spots that were a bit better than where these jumpers landed.