Photo Credit: zayzayem / Flickr.com
Gerardo Flores had been training for two years at the SkyDive Monterey Bay School and thought it would be OK to skirt the rules. He’d only made 29 jumps over that extended time period, but that didn’t stop him from bringing along a GoPro Camera for his 30th jump: a solo affair more than 13,000 feet above the earth’s surface.
It’s not recommended you bring any extraneous equipment on a jump (like a camera) for someone of Flores’ limited experience. Unfortunately, as CBS San Francisco first reported, after Flores exited his plane, his parachute opened at 13,000 feet (you’re not supposed to release the chute before descending to at least 6,000 feet). The parachute opened just 16 seconds from the time he jumped out of the plane and after Flores executed a barrel-roll onto his back. After the parachute deployed, he started to spin and shouted in alarm because his training had taught him that it had opened way too soon. Check out the CBS San Francisco shocking footage.
In the footage, you can hear Flores contemplating cutting the primary chute away, to try his luck with the back-up. But he resisted the urge because he didn’t know if the back-up would open after the entangled primary chute deployed automatically. Flores started spinning under the opened chute, and the panic is evident in his voice and repeated calls for help. His decision not to cut away the chute didn’t matter because not long after the main chute’s inadvertent deployment, he lost consciousness.
Photo Credit: Laura Hadden / Flickr.com
His GoPro camera caught his terrifying skydive gone wrong and his shouts of panic before passing out. Miraculously, he landed 20 minutes after losing consciousness in the drop zone. The camera he illegally brought along followed him all the way down to a hard landing and caught the arriving EMS crews who took him to the hospital. He broke multiple ribs, lacerated his tongue, and was unconscious for two weeks as a result. But, incredibly, the skydive snafu didn’t claim his life.
The FAA conducts an investigation into any and all skydiving accidents, and concluded in their report on Flores, according to CBS San Francisco, “the report found a ‘critical’ Velcro closing flap on the parachute casing was ‘completely worn.’ Suspension lines were broken. And the parachute’s rigging had knots, prompting the inspector to note: ‘these lines should have been replaced prior to allowing this parachute to be placed in service.’”
After witnessing the video from his fall, Flores concluded, “‘oh my god, I can hear myself choking. I could have died that day!’” CBS spoke with an expert, Dr. Craig Stapleton, who read the FAA’s report, but was primarily concerned with the video camera, which he said “can be a distraction.” The United States Parachuting Association recommends at least 100 jumps before bringing video recording instruments on a dive. In this instance, Flores was incredibly fortunate he survived his unconscious fall. We’ve already covered how safe skydiving has become in our Extreme New Year’s Resolutions feature, but when you don’t follow the rules and recommendations of skydiving’s governing body and your equipment isn’t properly maintained, mistakes like Flores’ do happen.