A skydiver was able to cut free a spiralling parachute and deploy her backup chute during a jump in Central Saanich on Sunday, April 22.
She landed safely, says the owner of Capital City Skydiving, based in North Saanich, but passers-by saw the malfunctioning parachute, thought it was a skydiver in distress and called emergency services.
Bob Verett says the skydiver landed safely, having performed an emergency cut away of a chute that had spiraled almost immediately after being deployed on her jump.
“She did the right thing at high altitude,” he said.
Verret noted he and his instructors train people on emergency procedures, and what to do in the event a chute fails is one of them.
“Emergency procedures are taught to all our students and we review it throughout the year. And we review them each time we’re in the aircraft.”
In this case, Verret said the skydiver deployed her chute and could not control it. He said the emergency procedure is to assess the situation as quickly as you can — no one on the ground is able to help — and if a jumper cannot resolve an issue with their main parachute, they are to cut it away and deploy their secondary chute.
“She did a good job and she landed safely.”
Verret said both paramedics and the Central Saanich Fire Department were called and arrived at the jump zone at Woodwynn Farms on West Saanich Road. By then, the skydiver had already landed. Verret added she plans to jump again this week.
Verret, who has more than 2,200 jumps under his belt and was a search and rescue technician with the Canadian Forces, said his first parachute cut away didn’t happen until he’d passed 1,200 jumps. They can happen, he said, at any time which is why training is so important.
Parachute failure, he added, can also depend on a variety of factors, from weather to how a skydiver leaves an aircraft. Verret noted they debriefed after the jump to find out why it happened and how to prevent it. In this case, he said the reasons why the chute failed are inconclusive.
Capital City Skydiving is at the centre of multiple incidents that took place last year, that reminds people of the dangers in the sport.
An experienced solo skydiver made a hard landing at Woodwynn while videotaping a tandem jump in September 2017. He suffered serious injuries and would later lose his leg.
In June last year, a tandem jump went wrong and the skydivers landed in trees, necessitating a rescue. A Sooke man sustained head, hip and arm injuries in that incident and is reportedly suing Capital City Skydiving, according to media reports.
The sport is mostly self-regulated, but incidents like this are reported to the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association, which can make recommendations.
In August 2017, the District of Central Saanich, in response to the apparent frequency of skydiving accidents that year, asked Transport Canada to investigate. Transport Canada, however, does not regulate the sport — only the aircraft used in skydiving.