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Man (21) broke his back as parachutes failed to open

A MAN broke his back on his first parachute jump when a main and a reserve chute only partially opened.

The 21-year-old, along with his brother and sister, had been given vouchers for tandem parachute jumps. His father was watching when the accident unfolded at Clonbullogue airfield in Co Offaly last August 18.

The first-time parachutist was jumping with an experienced tandem jumper when their main chute only partially deployed

They landed hard in a forest clearing 150 metres north of the airfield after jumping from 10,000ft, an Air Accident Investigation Unit report said.

The 21-year-old suffered a broken back, broken left arm, a broken jaw and also lost a number of teeth. He spent nine days in two Dublin hospitals.

The tandem master, who broke his left femur just above the knee, later told investigators that almost immediately after deployment of the main chute at 5,500ft, the canopy commenced a violent spiral to the right, and the young parachutist attached to him was was being thrashed about like a "rag doll".

He pulled on the brake lines, but to no effect, and then opted for a main canopy cut-away.

While attempting to pull the cut-away handle to release the main chute, he said his hand kept coming off it.

He recalled: "Once I reached the cut-away handle, the tension on the cut-away cable, due to the centrifugal force of rotation, was such that I was unable to activate the release."

Concerned with his closure rate to the ground and in the belief that he was at 2,000 ft and that this was his last chance, he pulled the reserve, but "nothing happened".

He started shouting to the 21-year-old, telling him that this was going to be a very hard landing and to keep both feet together.

mlavery@herald.ie


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