IAmA survivor of a skydive in which my parachute didn't open. AMA.
My name is Brad and a few years ago I was involved in a freak skydiving incident in which both my main parachute and emergency parachute failed to deploy correctly. I was the passenger in a tandem jump from 15,000 feet and I was falling at 80km/h (50m/h). I sustained neck and spinal injuries and many mental health issues including depression and PTSD as a result. Hopefully my openess can help other people out there experiencing the same thing.
PROOF (in links): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sa2JnDgGKc
Oddly enough, there was. In my vlog (linked above) you'll notice I said that before we jumped, he pointed the GoPro at me and asked if I had any last words. Me being a tosser, said "Hope my parachute opens". My dark sense of humour worked against me it would seem. As we were falling I asked "Are we gonna die?" and he just said he didn't know. That's when I really had accepted my fate.
I haven't seen or made contact with him since that day.
WHy haven't you seen or made contact with him. As the previous poster noted, one would think that going through a near death experience you might form some kind of bond. Are you at all curious as to how his experience was?
Honestly, I'm scared. It's confronting. I will do it very soon but right now I need to accept the past and make sure I'm full of my faculties before we reunite.
Man, ignore all the pressure you're getting to reach out. If it happens, it happens. That's a pretty insane thing to go through, I don't think there is really a rulebook for this sort of scenario.
Best of luck. :)
Edit: Just to be clear, I'm not saying OP should or shouldn't do anything other than what he's comfortable with. I think there are a lot of armchair psychologists out here that are pushing for some kind of resolution or "closure" because they think they know better than the person (OP) who is actually going through it.
All I know is that if it was me, I would say living to make this post is more than enough closure on that chapter of my life.
Thanks for your understanding.
At the age of 16 I was cleaning a bathroom at Abuelos and this guy was peeing with crutches. I said that must be hard. He said ya it is, I got injured because my parachute didn't open. I laughed because I thought he was joking. He didn't laugh. It makes me wonder, how often do people survive this sort of thing and how do scientists think it's even possible when people can't even jump off a building without dying?
It happens more than you would think. I'm not sure the science behind it. Maybe because you know there's a parachute your body convinces you it's going to be fine. My body had prepared itself for death so it's crazy that I didn't have a heart attack out of shock or anything.
Mine is trivial by comparison. I fucked up and jumped a dirt bike off a cliff in old quarry. That moment when you realize your just going to impact and most likely die, you just kinda go limp emotionally
Sorry to hear you went through that. I agree. The emotions weren't as intense or overwhelming as one would expect.
Any speculation on how you are alive? Do you remember how you landed or was your fall broken by trees or something?
We half-landed in a lake on a golf course and my fall was partly broken by my instructor. I believe he broke his legs and pelvis. That and some sort of divine protection maybe?
So did the trailing main reduce your terminal velocity? Or did your instructor do anything to slow your descent (like flying squirrel style)
We definitely slowed down slightly from the parachutes being deployed, they just weren't open. I made impact at 80km/h (50m/h).
fall was partly broken by my instructor
I'm sorry if I missed it, I tried to listen to the entire video. Did he flip y'all over so he'd hit the ground first?
We hit the ground and bounced around into a lake.
has anything trivial but odd and seemingly unconnected like food or music preferences change after the experience?
Interesting question. Not really. Sorry that wasn't too exciting!
Thank you for offering your experience to read on reddit. I can't imagine the trauma caused by such an ordeal. It is good to see you on a road to recovery.
Was there any coming to peace with what was going to happen? Was there any time to process what was going to happen?
Thanks! You mean during the fall? I honestly thought I was gone. I had fully accepted death and it felt so certain that I started to feel guilt for my family and what I was leaving behind. It was likely only a minute of falling, but in that short time I had prepared for the pain and for my death. I didn't see any other outcome besides dying.
Do you consider yourself unlucky (because the parachutes didn't open) or lucky (because you survived despite that)?
Great question. I initially thought unlucky because for many years the incident had taken so much away from me. I felt like I had lost everything and it nearly cost me my life because of my mental health issues. It was very much a "why me?" mentality. These days I see it as a very unique gift. To have these new philosophies on life and wisdom is priceless. So now it's more of a "of course me!" because I have purpose.
How did the mental problems first manifest? You think it was a physical change that resulted from the fall or the mental trauma of dealing with the idea and experience of what happened?
Combination of both. The medication was very strong and being braced up was debilitating. I knew after the first night in hospital that my mind was never going to be the same again. I first realised I had a problem when I didn't stop crying and screaming for 6 hours straight.
Can you share what sort of thing was going through your mind during those 6 hours? Or was it raw emotion with no thoughts at all? That is a really huge thing to go through, glad you're feeling good now.
Utter confusion. I couldn't feel my body and I was bound to a bed. It took me so long to process the fact that I was alive. I couldn't exactly sit there and think because every single time I closed my eyes I would be transported back in the air and would feel myself falling again and again and again.
Can you walk?
Amazing. You're a lucky guy, best of luck in your future.
What color was your parachute?
Yellow and blue from memory. Emergency was white.
Why didn't your tandem master cutaway the main?
I honestly think he tried to. I remember seeing what looked like a knife but in the moment it just felt like we were shaking all over the place, so it is hard to tell. I haven't seen him since the day so I can't ask and be certain.
How did you two not become best freinds? Or at least sit down and share a beer after you were healed and talk about it?
You almost died while strapped to another person who almost died. Open a sportsbar in Hawaii together or something.
I was held up recovering and didn't really face reality for a lot of years. I'd love to reach out but I'm still a little afraid. Hopefully in the future.
That makes sense.
I was joking around before, but on a serious note, it might be an interesting conversation. It might even help to give you some better closure. After all, he is the only other person that went through the same thing you did.
Totally and it is definitely on my to-do list. I think for him it was just a little blip at work and he continued diving after that. Bit of a different story for me.
What was the immediate aftermath (hitting the ground and being taken to the hospital) like?
I could barely register the impact. I was heavily winded and couldn't breathe. We had slid into a lake and the parachute canopy was on top of my instructor and I, who I was still harnessed to. He was knocked out and unresponsive. I just remember not being able to feel most of my body and I used all my strength to try and wake up my instructor. I was shaking him and praying he would wake up because I was convinced that he was dead, that it was my fault and that I was a paraplegic. After what felt like forever, we were found by three golfers (we landed on a golf course) and I was lifted into the back of an ambulance while my family cried and shouted to me from the outside. All of this while in absolute agony. The pain was incredibly excruciating. On the way to the hospital I just kept crying and crying. I was totally hysterical and in shock. It was very much a mind fuck that I couldn't even process.
Damn. I can't see the articles or videos (country internet lol); did your instructor survive?
Yes he did. He sustained similar injuries.
How close did you land to water? Seems like you could have gotten lucky and landed in water, rather than bouncing off solid ground. Tough luck man.
PS: do you think there would be a danger of drowning guys??? Please add a 56th reply below and let me know.
We landed on an edge and moved towards a lake through the force of the fall. Water could've been just as dangerous as we weren't able to move.
A friend of mine died recently when his parachute didn't deploy. You're a very, very lucky man. I don't have a question, I just wanted to say that I'm glad you're okay.
This comment was deleted last time because it's not a question, so how's the weather down there today?
Thanks for your kind words. It's overcast and damp here!
How're you feeling these days?
I'm great! It's taken me a lot of years and a lot of mental rebuilding and sacrifice but I can confidently say I am absolutely thriving. I'm in an amazing, supportive relationship, my career is progressing nicely and my creative outlet (YouTube) brings me a lot of joy! Now that I'm stable, I feel like it's time to share my story and hopefully inspire some people. I'd love to do public speaking on mental health in the future, or even write a book. Thanks so much asking!
What is your advice to friends / relatives who want to try a skydive?
I wouldn't stop them. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't attempt it knowing my story.
Would you try again?
Do you have a fear of heights now?
Yes. I'm still doing therapy for it. I can barely look out the window of a second story building without getting anxious. It's pretty shit.
Have you considered exposure therapy with VR? It's a 100% safe way of getting over things like that (you can be in a basement while doing this), and from what I hear, it works very well.
Essentially, you'd be using Virtual Reality to trick your brain's visual center into thinking you are at increasing heights, so you can deal with the anxiety slow and at your own pace, while you're actually just standing inside on some floor, and you can take the head-mounted display off at any time if it's too uncomfortable.
It's not something I've heard of before, but will look up now. Thanks for the tip.
Have you tried EMDR therapy?
Haven't heard of it, can you elaborate?
It's a form of desensitization therapy using eye movement that's considered particularly effective for traumas.
Interesting, I'll have to check it out.
I have success with it, for me the therapy interrupts the loop of the traumatic experience (real or not, major or minor). It allows my mind to reframe the experience usually by an understanding from another POV or the interruption breaks my mind movie so I can start dealing with unresolved issues and heal or move on from the experience completely if i have dealt with the other aspects. Does this answer your question ?
I'm intrigued. Will definitely check it out. Thanks!
Crazy experience bro. Did you have flashbacks of your life? Did you and the instructor land flat on your backs or legs first?
I didn't have flashback, more like flash-present if that makes sense. I just remember how bad I felt for my family who were watching me and what I was leaving behind. We moved a lot when we made impact so it's hard to know how we landed exactly. I ended up on top of him.
Did your boyfriend know about the incident before meeting you? Was there a specific food you were craving after not being able to eat solids for a while? I always want Nachos or burgers and fries after the few surgeries I've had.
He actually did surprisingly. He had heard of the story when it broke (because it went bonkers with the press) and funnily enough he meets me years later. It's one of those stories that stays with you I guess. I didn't crave anything, I was too depressed. I barely ate at all. I just gobbled a lot of drugs.
So your boyfriend at the time of your jump left?
Yep. Our relationship ending up dissolving a couple years later.
Cute. How did you guys meet? When you were first getting to know each other did he ask a lot of questions or was he more reserved about the topic? I personally feel like I would want to, as your significant other, pick your brains and learn your perspective on the entire situation but I would be cautious and probably wait until you brought it up?
We met at a gay disco night. He didn't ask anything at all, I pretty much just poured my heart out one day and since then he's treated it with such consideration and sensitivity. He understands the gravity of that event (mind the pun) and he's seen me at my best and worst because of it. I'm a very lucky man to have him.
I'm terrified of heights. Nightmares and everything. I was actually convinced to do a tandem jump once. Nothing went wrong, but I still sometimes think about how scared I was. Got any advice or what kinda therapy did you do?
My advice is to just follow your heart. It's normal to be scared in those situations. Whenever I am near height, roller coasters, on places etc I always think "Well the impossible has already happened, so I wouldn't be surprised if another freak accident hits me". I did a lot of heavy cognitive based therapy. It's super intense. I basically had to reformat my brain because a lot of harmless stimuli was striking me with fear. Typical PTSD.
Yeah, I've done a lot of CBT too. Also been given benzos. Yeah, it's about learning how to think different and habit forming. I guess I just find it tough. Thanks
Don't get me wrong, this isn't easy and we all have our different healing processes. Just stay persistent and the rewards will come and it's ok to slip up every now and then. One day things will get better, it's a certainty! Good luck to you.
You mentioned divine protection has crossed your mind, did your experience affect your spirituality in any way?
Totally. It's hard not to think about it philosophically when there's so many missing pieces. I've always been a big believer in destiny and fate, but this incident has solidified that. I'm very sensitive to energies and the vibes we can put out there. The energy we put out is the energy we get back. Still a massive gaytheist though.
In 2009, I experienced a near death experience of being ejected from a car at 80 miles an hour. I was 17, a week out of high school. I was in a coma for three weeks and when I came too, my brain trauma had caused me to forget most of the prior year. My body is scarred and in constant pain. I have suffered consistent anxiety and mental health issues subsequently, but self-loathing and suicidal tendencies are the most prevailing ones. I cannot learn self-respect or self-love. My mother was the woman who stayed by my side, and my only parent and support net. She passed away at the end of last year frog leukemia and I'm having a hard time rationalizing the point of existence beyond these life experiences. We are all meant to die and every day I am still greeted with that fear that death will come at any minute and unexpectedly. It makes me want to give up, and I find myself over encumbered with the fear that all is for nought. I don't have many friends, I lock myself away apart from when I work. I'm on several anti-depressants but nothing helps me. How do you cope? What helps too pull you away from cognitive dissonance and self loathing when you feel yourself regressing into that mindset?
I am so sorry for what you are experiencing and trust me when I say that things can and will get better. I almost ended it all too and I still see death every time I hit the pillow to sleep. The one thing that keeps me going is that one day things will get better. When you strongly believe that it is a certainty and a guarantee, it will happen. It might not be tomorrow. It might not be in five years. But it WILL happen. Keep the faith and seek help. Please seek help.
Do you like star wars?
Never seen it. I KNOW, WTF.
Pretty sure that fall was God telling you to go fucking watch Star Wars.
I'll do it!
This might be a dumb question because only one of the articles worked for me and I skimmed through, but can I ask what your physical injuries were?
I broke most of my spine (upper) and tore the ligaments in my neck. I also had cracked ribs and plenty of bruises.
Jaysus man. Do you have rods in your back or anything? I'm really glad you survived and are able to tell your story. I also really hope you're able to get over (probably poor choice in words, but words fail me sometimes) your psychological injuries too. Watching your video broke my heart a little bit because, minus the whole falling out of the sky thing, I can relate a lot to your psych issues with depression and anxiety. Lots of similarities.
No metal in me, just a lot of rehab and physio to keep me functioning. I'm so happy the video resonated with you. I truly want to inspire others and I feel like there needs to be more conversations around mental health.
Do you blame the instructor at all? Do you think that the instructor should've been more prepared to release that first parachute off before deploying the second?
I won't comment on blame. I don't like to think of it that way.
I like your mentality. I highly doubt this instructors day included two failed parachutes. It's not like the instructor wanted to have a near-death experience on purpose. In the end, these things unfortunately happen (to a very small percentage rate of people).
Keep those good vibes, man! Positive thoughts is the only way to move forward.
Hell yeah positivity!
The moment immediately before you hit the ground, not after..but right before, maybe 20 or 40 ft off the ground..what was going on in that moment? Were you bracing for impact, were you letting go of trying to control the situation. .did time slow down and you try to pick at different possible options and nuances or were you checked out? Fight or flight responses, or were the stimuli just too overbearing to flush?
I was still freaking out and my brain was going haywire. I knew that unimaginable pain was coming and that death was going to follow. I had accepted it. I didn't have time to process anything. All I felt was guilt for what my family was witnessing and for what I was leaving behind.
Wow. Mate. What a story. Definitely shed a wee tear watching your video. My question seems rather inconsequential now! Love the silver streak in your hair. I noticed that it wasn't there in the pictures prior to your jump and wondered if it was, firstly, natural, and if so did it came about due to head injury? Just so I don't seem like a complete weirdo, I'm a hairdresser and often see white/silver patches of hair due to scalp trauma. Thank you for sharing your experience, I wish you all the best in your recovery.
Wow, certainly the most interesting question I've ever had! I bleached the spot in my hair about a year ago. Just me trying to be cool.
Is it still called a Skydive at that point?
Real question - Any neat rehab stories before depression kicked in?
Just flirting hard with my physiotherapist while high on morphine and super mental. He declined. Not even the skimpy hospital robe could lure him in.
Followup: You still see the same physiotherapist occasionally?
Has your flirting technique improved since then?
No. No, I'm still a tacky loser. Thankfully I somehow landed a boyfriend so my flirting days are (somewhat) over!
Was there any footage of the incident?
It was apparently destroyed on impact.
If there was would you have any curiosity in seeing it?
I feel I have to ask, you mentioned the PTSD and depression. I always envisioned a near death experience to maybe leave you with a kind of renewed sense of life and purpose. How do you feel my naive assumption compares to your own personal experience? Thank you for the AMA.
I definitely do have a new sense of life. I've gained an immense level of wisdom and mental strength. It took me many, many years to get here and I certainly had to sacrifice and suffer to become stable and functioning. But I'm here! My purpose is to entertain and inspire. I live life with such ambition and clarity now.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
How do you cope with knowing you're pretty much unbreakable? I can understand the PTSD, but I think at that point id be living my life to the fullest
Edit: Thank you for the response! youre an inspiration to all people who have survived tragedies!
I totally am (as much as I can). I'm absolutely gung ho with life with right now. I'm exploring my passion projects (with YouTube) and my career is going really well. I don't hold back any more because I just don't have time. Life is precious and any time left wondering and asking questions is a waste. I need to live and get as much as I can out of this gift I've been given!
Hope I didn't miss this. Do you still keep in contact with the instructor? I imagine it could go either way. But I think it could be a significant bond, having cheated death together. Does he still instruct and sky dive? Thanks!
You didn't miss it! We haven't seen each other since that day but I've heard updates. As far as I know he still jumps.
How have your relationships (with family, friends) changed throughout the ordeal?
I am truly sorry you went through this experience, and I wish you the best in this beautiful world. I am so glad you are here to cherish it all :)
We were super close before this, but now we're even tighter. It's inspired my family members to cherish each other more and it's opened their mind to mental health. We now talk about our issues with an open and collaborative dialogue. It's amazing! With more communication we've been able to support each other more. They suffered just like I did, there were many repercussions for all of us.
You mentioned you haven't talked to the instructor, but do you know if he still skydives? Glad, your story has a happy ending. A guy from my alma mater passed away in a skydiving accident weeks before his graduation.
I heard a couple years ago that he still jumps. It was his job.
Thanks for the last bit of your video - that really connected with me.
Aside the mental issues, have you fully recovered from any injury?
I still have horrible back pain almost daily and I'm very limited in a lot of my movements as a result of the neck/spinal injury. This is permanent.
Damn, that's horrible. Sky-diving was something I always wanted to pick up as a hobby once I start earning money, since it's a rather costly activity and I like adrenaline rushes. Guess I have to re-think this choice.
How do you cope with the changed circumstances for your life? Are you happy you're still here? Do you sometimes wish you hadn't made it?
Make the decision to jump for yourself, don't let me influence you. I have struggles constantly. My life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. I still suffer from PTSD and many sleep disorders. What keeps me going is my new purpose in wanting to inspire and entertain others. That and my incredible support network at home. During my depression post-accident I definitely wanted to end it all. I couldn't bare to live with myself as I felt like I was this monster with no future. Luckily I've come out the other end through perseverance and ambition.
How to people die when jumping off a 4 story building but you survive a 2 mile drop?
I don't know.
Do you ever have dreams about it?
Have you watched the gopro footage?
I have night terrors frequently. I was diagnosed with insomnia and nightmares disorder during my recovery. It's explained in my vlog which is linked above. Footage was apparently destroyed on impact.
I have to ask, if presented with the opportunity to jump again, would you?
I believe I saw that you mentioned you won't skydive again, how do you feel about skydiving in general? What would your response be to a friend, family member, or just a random stranger if they were considering a jump and you were involved in the conversation or just within earshot?
I'd be extremely shocked if any of my family or close friends did it knowing my history. But I don't want to limit people, it's their choice. Even hearing about someone doing it is a trigger for me, but I'm a lot stronger than I used to be.
Do you think one day you'll be able to fully return to normalcy? Maybe even be able to joke about being impenetrable or things of the like?
Nope. My life will never be the same again. Most of this is permanent. I can find the humour in it occasionally as I am a (very shit) comedian, so there is an odd gag here and there. I'm a big believer in tragedy giving birth to comedy which is why I started a YouTube channel as a form of therapy. It felt great to just express myself and do something creative to get my mind off things.
How much screaming was involved? I see you've involved Nowicki Carbone as lawyers.. they come across as ambulance chasers to me.. how are they? (I live not that far from Wallan.
No screaming, I was more or less speechless. Couldn't really hear anything over the noise of the parachute hitting the wind.
you essentially experienced what we would consider the process of dying ( t he bad part anyway ) the anticipation of a life threatening injury and the pain experienced during are likely worse than the actual death part.
Do you think the experience merits the level of fear? Did it match your expectations? ( as I'm sure you had thought about experiencing a disaster before )
I didn't have any expectations because I didn't know it was going to happen. I'd like to think it's one of the worst imaginable ways to die. Nobody should have to go through what I went through and the other miracle besides my survival is the fact I'm able to sustain the life I have now. It's not easy.
How long were you paralyzed? Any lasting damage other than the psychological?
You're cute btw.
I was paralysed for a few minutes while in the lake we landed in. I couldn't feel most of my body because of cold/shock. Lasting damage is just daily neck/back pain which leaves me a little useless with certain physical activities. And thanks!
What's the status of bill? I have pieced together he is alive from other comments but no other known information. Was he badly injured aswell? Is he crippled or recovering? I read multiply times you have not got in contact with him since the incident so this may be hard to answer.
As well, when you landed, did you land on him or vice versa?
He's alive. He broke his legs and pelvis. I haven't had any contact with him. I both landed on the ground and each other. It wasn't just a straight, flat landing.
What did you land on and did it help soften the landing?
We hit the edge of a lake on a golf course. I guess that sort of ground is softer than regular earth.
What was the first meal you had after the accident? How was it?
Some shitty hospital food, think it was some red meat. There's actually a picture of it in my vlog linked above.
I know this is gonna be a really strange question, but I am actually being sincere. I know you had an accident but would you recommend skydiving? I've been told by multiple people that it can be a really exciting but life changing experience and I feel like that you would understand that best. I've been told it really can put the entire world into perspective and turn peoples lives around.
I really can't answer that and I'm definitely not the right person to ask.
Did the parachute open and then collapse? Or did it fail to open at all?
Edit- Spelling error
It deployed but appeared to be stuck in itself. It didn't open but was released.
did you aim for a puddle?
We landed on the edge of a lake.
What do you think about this game? http://www.dazeland.com/Amiga_Games/Parachute_Joust-English.html
It's a trigger. Thanks.
Did you and the tandem instructor have a "last moment" of sorts before impact? Also, seeing you both survived do you still talk or was there any bond formed there?
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