80-year-old skydiving first-timer falls out of tandem harness

Screen Shot 2012 05 25 at 10 51 29 AM
[Video Link] She obviously didn't want to jump. I wonder if the skydiving company charged extra for the extra thrill. (Via Geekolgie)


  1. I couldn’t watch past the point of her grasping the door edge repeatedly and someone else repeatedly taking her hand off the frame. I hope someone lost their job.

    1. As someone that’s been skydiving a couple times, when you first walk up to that door it’s almost impossible to voluntarily jump out.  I *wanted* to jump, badly, but there was nothing I could do to make it happen.  Fortunately my first instructor was bigger than me so he just marched us off the plane.  The second time they paired me with a little lady and I had to stand there for 30 seconds and finally close my eyes and make the plunge.  It’s one thing to say, “I want to go skydiving!” and another thing entirely to voluntarily jump out of a perfectly good plane.

      p.s. that video was terrifying. The harness looked loose when she was sitting on the plane. Yikes. The waivers they have you sign are pretty comprehensive, so who knows if they’ll have any liability there. I’m no lawyer, but when the name of the place is “Uninsured Skydive [etc],” you know they’ve covered their asses as well as they can.

      1. Most waivers have you absolve the company of negligence. Judgements in the US have allowed this, while, with a couple exceptions, judgements in Canada haven’t.

        1. Nope. The waiver you sign for something like skydiving would prevent you from suing if you were injured in an unforeseeable accident, “Act of God,” etc. The company is still liable for negligence.

      2. That was my experience as well, they had to speed up the plane and finally wiggle me off.  I wanted to let go, I was sending mental commands to my fingers to let go, but the fingers had other ideas.

    2. Ah, no, that’s pretty normal. Even if you ‘want’ to jump out of a plane, it’s hard to convince your body to do it. Where I went for my first jump, they had us hold the front of our shoulder straps until we were out of the plane and stable, probably to prevent the safety hazard of grabbing things on the way out. Mind you, they also walked through the clip up/tighten process so we could confirm it, as if we were co-pilots.

      1. I have kind of an urge to throw myself off things. I stay away from edges for that very reason.

    1. Why? Does this single incident, which ended well after all (no small amount of luck) condemn either the instructor or the company? 

      1. Yes, it does. This was a major fuck up on the part of the Tandem Instructor, he had his license pulled and fired from the DZ after this incident.

      2. I was thinking, by analogy with driving, that we don’t pull people’s licenses after every accident, even after at-fault accidents, because we know even competent people make mistakes. But I guess in the case of something like a tandem instructor, there’s a responsibility issue involved.

        1. Making mistakes when you’re in the air or when driving could come down to a bad split-second decision, which is understandable. Putting other people’s lives in danger because you failed to make proper safety checks is quite different.

      3. Skydiving instructors have a higher standard of due diligence than the lady who makes your burrito. You kind of have to accept that there’s going to be regulatory oversight when you choose something so dangerous for a career.

  2. Someone needs to hack parachutecenter.com’s website NOW (yes, the video named names) to show a still of that video in their slide show.

  3. c’mon, at least they had the good taste to go ahead and cut the souvenir video, complete with the rad Offspring song in the background…

  4. Even I, with my lack of skydiving skills, could tell that her harness was not on correctly or tightly enough as she tried to put her goggles on.   None of the pros on the plane noticed?? 

    1. My guess is that the pros were being too solicitous of an 80-year-old woman, not wanting to man-handle her.  I’m sure with a 20- or 30-year-old, they would have jerked on the ends of the harness and stuff like that.

      Safety should always come first.  Be polite to little old ladies, but don’t back down from the checklist.

      1. Yep, I completely agree.  The harness pulls would have been yanked tight (and their goggles smashed down a little straighter) on a younger person, for sure. 

        But (I say to them), Granny can’t be so delicate and fragile to handle a little rough harness tightening if she’s going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, for fun.  

        1. A skydiver friend of mine’s comment on the standard  “Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” line is “Naaah – you should see the plane’s we’re jumping out of!”   Because if you’re a skydiver, the plane only has to take off successfully; landing’s only a problem for the pilot.

  5. From what I’ve heard you sign something that basically states if you get in the plane, the only way you are getting out is to jump. There’s no backing out unless you have a heart attack or something.

    Poor lady. Her harness did look obviously loose to me as well. I would think even she would question that. 

    1.  That’s not true, you can land with the pilot. I saw that happen years ago, and yes the guy took a lot of crap from his buddies.

    2. Nope, if you don’t want to jump then the TI must ride the plane down with you.  What happens often though, is that someone gets to the door and needs a little “help” because they’re terrified, but there’s a fine line where you force an unwilling person out the door.

    1. Depends what you did with that knowledge. It could be the most disturbing thing I’ve heard in ages.

  6. You know, I see this as ‘bad accident ends well due to luck and correct post-incident behavior’.  People make mistakes, and I don’t think it is reasonable to hold them to perfection, whether they are skydiving instructor, doctors, or anyone else. If this instructor has a pattern of such errors, that’s another story, but I wouldn’t be so quick to blame him or the company for a single event. 

    Skydiving, fortunately or unfortunately, doesn’t have as much safety margin as other activities, so not so much tolerance for error, human or mechanical. 

  7. I tried that two weeks ago for the first time (not the almost falling out of the harness part, just the skydiving part) for my 50th birthday. (what is it about birthdays that makes people want to jump out of planes at high altitudes?). I think they should have had the harness on tighter but I don’t think her struggling before the jump helped the situation.

    1.  How was your jump?  Was it scary?  I’ve always thought, “oh yes, I could jump out of an airplane” but in reality… I haven’t done it (yet?) and I’m not sure that I could!

      1.  I paid for the photos and video of my own first jump (which I highly recommend… it’s good for the memories, and for humility, because you can see how you scared you really were, not how you revise/remember it later). I start out talking confidently and casually, a little forced. I have a look of extreme horror on my face when I’m on the edge, just before being launched out. (As I mentioned, at our place we were told to hold the shoulder straps until told to spread by the instructor, so I wasn’t really in control of the launch or initial maneuvering.) The rest is just so intense you’re only half aware of what’s going on. I was encouraged to make cool hand signals and wave at the cameraman but I ran out of ideas  pretty quickly. We seemed to fall a long time. We turned around a little bit, moved closer and further from the camera guy, etc.. The instructor guided my hand back and let me pull the chute when it was time. Which seemed to open instantaneously.

        For me, I enjoyed the ride down after the parachute opened best … total quiet, almost no sense of motion, beautiful scenery. I guess I’m not really an adrenaline junky at heart. :-) Probably should try paragliding next.

        I’ve heard the second or third jump is more interesting because you can pay more attention to the views and the sensations, and aren’t just clenching everything.

        Would I do it again?  Probably not. I could be maybe be talked into it if it were a friend’s first time and they wanted a buddy to come along. Am I glad I did it? you bet.

        1.  One of the tandems on the run before me had to sever the main chute and open their reserve. Talking to ‘passenger’ later, I found out she wasn’t even aware anything had gone wrong, even though there were actually several seconds there in which the trainer tried to open the main chute, cut it away, restabelized, and opened the reserve. “You got two canopy openings for the price of one!” said the crew on the ground. But it shows how distorted your sense of time can be if you’re not used to processing that.

        2. Woo!  Thanks for sharing your jump experience!  I’m not really an adrenaline junkie either, but I suffer from Curiosity.   With a capital “C”. 

  8. seems a bit of a ‘1st world problem’ to me….Pay $200-300 to do something in itself completely counter intuitive to human survival instinct, then sabotage the process at the last second putting atleast a couple lives in danger, then have the internet come to your rescue by saying you were ‘wronged’.  All that said, I’m skydiving for the first time this summer and I am psyched.  ‘Arms in’ champs!

  9. I have my doubts that the video is authentic and that it is really an 80 year old lady.

    1.  Younger ladies don’t wear bras like that.  At least, we try not to wear bras like that.  ;)

  10. I doubt there are a lot of legal avenues here, they have you sign an absurd number of waivers before you even get on a plane. 

    Also, a weird amount of judgmental people here – some people find skydiving fun, big deal.

  11. When I went bungy jumping in New Zealand they would always strap you in to shoulder harnesses that connected top to bottom both front and back.  Same when I’ve taken rock climbing lessons.  I wonder why these skydivers don’t use harnesses with X straps across the back that would have prevented this.

    I could see how enough body fat could keep the harness waistbelt from being adjusted tight enough to not slip over the hips, but that’s another issue.

  12. Pilot in fatal B.C. hang-glider fall charged with obstruction

    The pilot of a hang-glider from which a woman passenger fell to her death during a flight east of Vancouver Saturday has been charged with obstruction of justice, police say.

    Witnesses said the hang-glider’s pilot, Willam Jonathan Orders, tried desperately to hold on to Lenami Dafne Godinez as the 27-year-old woman slipped from his grip and plunged 300 metres to her death about 30 seconds after the launch of the tandem flight.
    William Jonathan Orders is charged with obstruction of justice after allegedly swallowing the card believed to contain a video recording of the fatal flight.

  13. Went skydiving ~10 years ago. It was mentioned numerous times that they could not land the plane with x amount of weight, and thus most people would have to jump. Never knew if they were serious.
    Jumping out of the plane worked fine. Everything after that until the chute opened I can’t remember. Thank god nothing went wrong. 

    Glad I did it those three times, probably won’t ever do it again : )

    1. Some airliners have to dump fuel to land right after takeoff but they are dragged into the air by turbine engines on 110% power. I don’t think light aircraft work the same way. If they had an engine problem at 500 feet they would do a circuit and land with all the skydivers on board. Its the only safe way to operate.

        1. Its high enough to fly a circuit and land. Even if the aircraft was flying that low away from an airfield it is possible to outland the light twin which is shown in the video.

  14. Come on. Obviously fake. Hasn’t anyone seen Spike Jonze in his old woman disguise before? Like on Jackass. 

  15. Yet another instance of granny holding up the goddamned line!

    Seriously now, I skydived once, and NOT tandem but solo the very first time, viva Mexico! My instructor (cheers, Ulysses Perez my man, wherever you are I hope you still have that Rollie Fingers moustache) dived parallel to me, about ten yards away.

    It may be pleasant and toasty at ground level, but up there it’s cold as a mountaintop and windy and noisy, a sensory shock to the system from every direction, the unfamiliar territory and every nerve ending in your body screaming “YOU are GOING to DIE!”  So yeah, I understand this lady having second thoughts while up there.

    My Mexican guys had been applying reverse psychology, the pilot stalled the engines twice going up, and there were no seats (never mind seat belts) on the plane, so my ass went weightless and lost contact with the floor carpeting twice.  Then Ulysses turned to me and said (in Spanish) “I really don’t know what’s worse, jumping or going back down with this madman at the helm”.

    That airplane was the nastiest place to be, you see.

    So I jumped.  And everything went whiteout for an instant that lasted for ages.  And everything before that jump is my prehistory.

  16. I hope whatever retribution was/will be extracted stops with the instructor, and doesn’t affect the whole Center: I’ve only skydived twice, enjoying it immensely, and it was at this same place.  I know, when you’re interested in trying to skydive, you’re not looking for the “cheapest” place, but this is, I believe, the least expensive skydiving center within a couple hours radius of San Francisco.  Certainly no one there wants anything like this (or worse) to happen, and they’re not at all lackadaisical about safety precautions (at least insofar as people who habitually jump from planes can be).  I hope Nick, in comments above, is accurate in the report that the instructor’s license was revoked, and that that will quell whatever backlash has/will arise(n), because I’m glad to have that resource for death-defying fun-in-the-afternoon close at hand!

    1. Actually… as more reports come out, stating that 8 people have died in dives from this place in the past decade, whereas in 2009 & 2010, 16 and 21 people, respectively, have died skydiving nationwide… a few hundred thousand in FAA fines proposed… maybe I should reconsider….  Well, I s’pose that just makes the fear of death a li’l more salient, should I ever dive there again!

      The math is different when them’s yer kicks!

      Who am I kidding, I’m never diving there again, older now, married, blah, blah, blah, eighty-schmeighty…

  17. Can someone help me out here.  I need to know what ultimately happened bc I canNOT watch this.  Nope.

  18. The lady did not fall completely out of her harness and she was still being held to the instructor strongly enough that she staid connected when he deployed the main parachute. The video ends with people comforting/treating the old lady on the ground.

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