re-sized skydive landing

Survival tales in the extreme sports world

There are always extraordinary tales that you hear from survivors of one extreme sport or another, and here’s another…

On 4th August, when out parachuting in a memorial jump for Cheryl Button who had died of a brain tumour, Zoe Sievwright, 29, survived free-falling for 3,500 ft – with nothing more than a broken ankle!

Although the reserve ‘chute opened it failed to deploy properly as it became tangled with her failed primary ‘chute so as you can imagine she hurtled to the ground. Fearing the worst, rescuers immediately set out to look for her and were amazed when they found her half a mile away with nothing worse than the broken ankle, albeit very shaken.

Where Zoe Sievwright was meant to land

Zoe Sievwright's miraculous landing after her parachute failed to open properly

An aerial view of the landing site showing where Zoe Sievwright was meant to land (marked red) and where she did land (blue circle)

Interviewed in hospital later, she said: ‘You go into an arch and I started counting – 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 – and then I checked my canopy. We were told that if it was big and rectangular then it was fine but the canopy was all tangled. I had to cut away and then I pulled my reserve parachute and when I looked back up I could see the reserve parachute had got tangled up in the main one.’

There are misnomers in several of the reports I’ve read so bare with me if I get something wrong, but it has been widely reported that she was skydiving. This is not correct. She was doing a parachute jump – not a skydive. Had she been skydiving it is unlikely that she would have survived to tell the tale. However, it is true that she fell about 3,500 ft, but luckily her reserve parachute, although tangled with the other, was partially deployed thereby breaking her speed a little.  It is without doubt that she is very lucky to have escaped without more serious injury … if not worse.

It would be unfair to point a finger of blame at the skydive club. All extreme sports carry an element of danger and all of them require user decision and input – and no amount of equipment or instruction can overcome the omission of that. Had the main ‘chute been cut away the reserve would not have become entangled and the reserve chute steering toggles could have been used properly.

But it’s very easy to say all that from the safety of an indoor chair. In the moment of crisis, no matter how good your training, things can go wrong…

We wish you a quick recovery Ms. Sievwright. This’ll be one to tell your grandchildren one day!!!

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