Skydiving for sport or recreation is among the most popular ways mankind has devised to laugh in the face of our own mortality. As insane as it might sound to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 jumpers execute close to 3 million jumps each year in the United States alone.
With more than 8,200 people jumping out of planes each day in the U.S., the fact that the news cycle isn’t inundated with thrill seeker obituaries is a testament to just how safe we’ve managed to make falling from the sky at 120 miles per hour. In fact, according to expert estimates, you have around a 1 in 100,000 chance of dying if you were to go skydiving tomorrow.
That’s a big number, so for added reference, consider this: according to the National Safety Council, you have about a 1 in 96,691 chance of being convicted of a crime and executed in the United States. Of course, there are circumstances that can dramatically increase the risks associated with skydiving. Often, experienced jumpers identify and eliminate these risks ahead of time… but there are some things there’s just no planning for.
Such was the case for Christopher Jones back in 2015. Midway through an Accelerated Free Fall program, Jones departed the aircraft just as he had each time before, but as he fell past 9,000 feet, he suddenly had a seizure.
“Halfway through the skydive, he had a seizure and rolled onto his back,” WA Skydiving Academy business manager and chief instructor Robin O’Neill told the media.
Sheldon McFarlane, a jump master and instructor that jumped along with Jones, immediately recognized there was a problem. In the GoPro footage from McFarlane’s helmet camera, you can see as he makes one attempt to reach the distressed Jones and fails, before making a second pass and successfully pulling his chute open at about 4,000 feet.
“At no time was I worried he was going to hit the ground without a parachute, but given the circumstances and where we were I thought it would be better to get him under parachute earlier than later,” McFarlane said. “I managed to catch him on my second attempt and deploy his parachute.”
Jones, who was cleared for the jump by his doctor despite having epilepsy, wasn’t so dismissive of the incident. He called it, “possibly the scariest moment of my life,” in the video’s description on YouTube.
Watch the incredible footage below: