Skydiver survives 13,000ft drop after parachute fails

Friday, August 17, 2012

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MOTUEKA, New Zealand — A New Zealand skydiver was lucky to be alive after a jump from 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) went wrong, thanks to swampy ground cushioning the impact of his landing, reports said Friday.

Liam Dunne's feet left 10-centimetre (four inch) indentations in the ground when he landed heavily on a grass paddock near the South Island town of Motueka after the jump on Thursday, Fairfax Media reported.

It said the 35-year-old opened his main parachute at about 1,200 metres but had to cut it free after finding he could not steer it, with the reserve chute only opening about 220 metres (720 feet) from the ground.

After treatment at the scene he was taken to hospital with spine and leg injuries, although ambulance officers described his condition as non-life threatening.

Dunne was taking part in a skydiving festival when the accident occurred.

Skydive operator Stuart Bean, who was also at the festival, said the boggy ground, soaked by recent heavy rains in the South Island, was crucial to Dunne's survival.

"I believe that to be the case," he told Fairfax. "If you're going to hit something, if it's soft it's going to help."

A Nelson-Marlborough Rescue Helicopter spokesman said Dunne had fractured vertebrae in his lower back, some of which would have to be fused, but his prognosis was "quite good".

"He's very lucky to be alive," the spokesman told TVNZ.

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