This skydiver with around 50-ish jumps had incorrectly routed his chest strap, resulting in the chest strap coming undone in freefall. Fortunately, another jumper in the group– a Tandem Instructor with over 3,000 jumps – noticed the chest strap flapping in the wind; the TI grabbed his friend to show him that the chest strap was undone. After he realized what was going on, the jumper grabbed onto the strap, deployed his main canopy and landed safely without further incident.
The jumper had incorrectly routed his chest strap. He failed to go around the friction adapter and then back under it. That routing is what allows friction to be created by the pressure of the adapter pressing the strap against the square ring.
As part of his gear check, the jumper was grabbing both the under and over part of the strap and pulling against the hardware. This felt secure because – by holding both parts of the strap – his grip was preventing any movement.
The black hardware on a black strap made for very little contrast, making it more difficult for the jumper, and his buddies, to see that there was a misrouted chest strap.
Misrouting typically happens one of two ways:
In either case, if they slide their hand or fingers under the straps – don’t grab onto them – and just push away from their chest, the fact that friction is not being created will make it obvious that the strap was not routed properly.
The black hardware made the mistake harder to see but that’s not an excuse. When you’re checking your buddy, you need to get hands on their equipment and physically check that it’s good to go.