A Skydiver Slammed into a House After His Parachute Failed. He Survived.
The man plunged into a residential neighborhood in Oceanside, California, on Friday, and escaped with non-life-threatening injuries
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A southern California skydiver is lucky to be alive after a midair mishap sent him crashing into the roof of a home at high speed.
The San Diego Union Tribute reported that the incident occurred just after 5 P.M. on Friday, January 27, in Oceanside, California, approximately 40 miles north of San Diego. The unnamed man had jumped from an airplane operated by local skydiving company GoJump Oceanside when his parachute failed to fully deploy. He was not in a complete free fall—his partially-opened chute slowed his descent—however the local fire department told reporter he plummeted to the ground at “an accelerated pace” that was uncontrollable.
The man crashed into a residential neighborhood near the Oceanside Municipal Airport and struck the roof of a two-story home before coming to land in an adjacent yard. Eyewitness Amber Sweet-Smith told TV station KSWB that the entire house shook when the skydiver impacted the roof. She and her husband watched the man fall from the house into their front yard.
“It felt like forever, just looking at him,” Sweet-Smith said. “We stood there in, like, shock just going, ‘He has to be dead.’”
But he wasn’t. Oceanside fire officials told The Los Angeles Times that the man survived the fall and was airlifted to an area hospital with “serious but non-life threatening injuries.” According to the KSWB report, he was released on Monday, January 30.
“We’re just grateful that he’s fine, you know, a few broken bones. I mean, looking at him when he moaned, did the first moan and everything, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a miracle,’” Sweet-Smith said.
Skydiving fatalities are rare in the United States, and according to the United States Parachute Association, ten people died while skydiving in 2021, the lowest mark since the group began keeping records in 1961. Those ten fatalities came amid 3.57 million jumps done by USPA members—the most on record. This equates to .28 fatalities per 100,000 jumps.
“Each fatality is a heartbreak for the skydiving community, which has collectively taken steps each year to learn from these events and improve the sport,” the organization says on its website. “Subsequently, better technology, improvements to equipment and advancements in skydiver-training programs have made the sport safer than ever before.”
Still, the sport has razor-thin margins for error, and recent fatal skydiving accidents have been attributed to communication, calculation errors, and equipment failure. Last January, veteran skydiver Susan Sweetman of New Jersey died during a jump in Florida after her primary parachute failed to fully deploy. Of the 419 documented U.S. fatalities between 2002 and 2021, 55 resulted from problems with equipment, says the USPA.
Officials do not yet know why the man’s parachute failed in the Oceanside, California, incident. Blake Dorse, battalion cheif of the Oceanside Fire Department, told The Los Angeles Times the skydiving accident was the first he’d seen in 17 years with the agency involving a non-opening parachute. Dorse said skydivers regularly miss their landing spot and end up in neighborhoods.
The man was jumping with other skydivers, and Dorse said that others in the party realized something was wrong during the descent.
“The other skydivers who jumped with him witnessed the event,” Dorse said. “And saw that his chute did not properly open.”
According to Sweet-Smith, an instructor from the GoJump skydiving center landed safely in the street near their house and came over to help the injured man as he lay on their lawn. Sweet-Smith told KSWB she and her husband often hear skydivers during their falls, but the sound they heard during the accident was different.
“We usually hear the screaming or, you know, people laughing—just in the air, and he heard like an unusual scream, looked up, saw the guy and went, probably in his head, ‘Oh [crap], he’s going to hit our house,’” she said.