After an uneventful two-way jump with a friend, this skydiver deployed his canopy and spent approximately 25 seconds messing around with his slider. Once he finally collapsed the slider and grabbed his toggles, he looked ahead and saw a canopy heading STRAIGHT towards him! Somehow, the jumpers (bodies) didn’t collide — but their canopies sure did. They were very lucky because that type of head-on collision could have resulted in serious injury or death.
The jumper explained that the group behind him was jumping from full altitude for the first time, were supposed to give a ten second delay, and were supposed to pull 100 meters (approx. 300 ft) higher than his group. If that second group didn’t give enough delay and didn’t pull at the right altitude, that could have been the issue.
It’s possible that this jumper and his friend were drifting up jump run. Based on canopy size, and their difficulties staying together after letting go of each other in freefall, they were likely newer jumpers and it’s possible they drifted towards the group that got out after them. The opposite is also possible; the second group could have flown down jump run towards these two.
This jumper noted that this was his first time jumping this canopy (beer!) and he wasn’t familiar with how to collapse the slider. He was the first to admit that he became preoccupied with the slider, and it resulted in him not paying attention to his surroundings.
Exit delay is something that even more experienced jumpers mess up because, especially in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to get excited and rush the count. Instead of going “One… two… three… four…” some folks go “ONE!TWO!THREE!FOUR!” and jump. One way to prevent that is by counting on your fingers. The manual act of holding up your hand in front of your face and seeing the fingers coming up can prevent you from rushing out of the plane.
When you’re a newer jumper, It’s easy to get confused about what direction the plane is flying and what direction you should be flying to avoid going up or down jump run. One of the most surefire ways to make sure you’re aware of it is by reviewing an overhead map on the ground before you even get into the plane. Many, if not most, dropzones mark the direction of jump run. And, if they don’t, just ask!
Taking 25-ish seconds to collapse a slider and unstow his toggles could have gotten this jumper killed because he was too busy messing around with his gear to remain aware of what was happening around him. He could have avoided this by asking his rigger to explain what was different with his new canopy compared to his old one, and by having them demonstrate how to stow his slider quickly and efficiently.