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Skydiver walks away with dislocated shoulder, bruises after 8,000 foot fall

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fifty-one-year-old Veteran skydiver Craig Stapleton is lucky to be alive. Walking away with only minor injuries after his parachute failed, he hit the ground at 30 miles per hour following a staggering 8,000-foot jump.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Stapleton, from Lodi, California is a 25-year veteran skydiver with over 7,000 jumps under his belt. He along with dive partner Katie Hanson was attempting to do a "down plane flag," a complex trick that requires two skydivers to link up mid-air and unfurl a flag between them. Upon landing, the flag stands straight up on a piece of lanyard.

Stapleton and Hanson had successfully performed the stunt before. The jump earlier this month was expected to be routine.

However, after about 40 seconds from departing the plane at 5,800 feet, Stapleton realized something was wrong with his chute as he was going 90 miles per hour.

Stapleton spiraled out of control as his foot flung up into his gear and his parachute cords tangled when he righted himself.

"I was like, 'Man, this is like a bad student jump. I can't believe this is going on," he told reporters. "If you go through gear and get a twist, it's usually not that big a deal. But with the flag and lanyard, I drug the equipment through the riser group, and it made things malfunction."

Stapleton then tried to deploy his back-up chute, but it got caught up in the failed half-deployed primary chute. "Time slows down. You can take time and do things," he said. "I could see I was running out of time. I got through 1,700 feet and realized my situation hadn't improved."

Craig Stapleton tucked himself up into a ball and hoped his body would roll when he hit the ground. He landed in a patch of soft soil at a nearby vineyard.

"I don't know how much of a roll it was," said Stapleton. "It sounded like a 'thung!' to me and I hit pretty hard."

Hanson said she tried to follow Stapleton as he fell back down to earth. She did not think he would survive the impact.

"I saw him hit and I remember just thinking, 'That's a survivable thing,'" Hanson said.

Stapleton was alive, talking and attempting to remove his gear by the time Hanson arrived.

"She's expecting open traumas, and she ran up the road, saw me moving around," he said. "She thought I was still twitching. She started yelling for me to stop moving."

The worst of his injuries was a dislocated shoulder. A trip to the hospital confirmed he had no broken bones.

Stapleton says his near-fatal experience will not stop him from diving again, but he may hold off on attempting complicated tricks. Counting his lucky stars, Stapleton said that "God, Buddha, Allah, baby Jesus, guardian angels. Somebody, somebody was watching out for me."

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