Skydiver seriously injured in plunge

HELEN MURDOCH AND PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 21:17 16/08/2012
Nelson skydive
PATRICK HAMILTON/Fairfax NZ

The sky diver being stretchered away from the scene.

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A skydiver who was seriously injured when his parachute failed during a jump at Motueka Aerodrome is being transferred to Christchurch for treatment.

The 35-year-old Taupo man, who had reportedly complete more than 1000 jumps, was forced to ditch his main parachute during a jump at the Good Vibes festival about 2pm today.

St John Ambulance team manager Gary Tobin said the man appeared to have suffered internal chest and internal abdominal injuries. He was also being assessed for spinal compression and lumbar fractures.

A doctor at the scene treated the man before police, ambulance officers and the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter arrived.

The skydiver was in an awful amount of pain and was conscious while he was being treated, Tobin said.

The skydiver was tonight transferred to Christchurch Hospital. A Nelson Hospital spokeswoman said he was in stable condition and was conversing with staff.

Witnesses Georgie and Kim  Eschweiler said they watched as the skydiver's main parachute floated away to the south and he  landed hard on the airport's southern side behind some hangars.

''He came down fast and hit the ground full blast,'' Eschweiler said.

Skydive Abel Tasman owner Stuart Bean said the skydiver had jumped from about 4000 metres and opened his parachute about 1200m.

Bean said the man discarded his main chute after  problems with one of his lines meant he ''was turning and had lost directional control'' and could not steer. 

According to police the man's emergency chute opened automatically when he reached about 230m.

Bean said  the skydiver would have  been ''going faster than you would like'' when he hit the ground.

''We were told his  injuries are not life threatening,'' Bean said.

The loss of  directional control meant the man could not steer to a land safely and could have landed on nearby houses or the  road, he said.

''It's our intention to continue with the festival after everyone has had a breather,''  said Bean.

''It's very disturbing when  one of us hurts ourselves. But he is a skydiver and would want us to carry on.''

Bean said the skydiver was experienced, completing more than 1000 jumps before, including 10 to 20 jumps at the festival.

The skydiver was well known in the small skydiving community and it was an "unfortunate situation".

"Everybody is really sad for him. We just wish him well and hope he gets well really soon."

The festival, which was organised by Skydive Abel Tasman, was put on hold today but organisers said it would continue tomorrow.

The Civil Aviation Authority has been notified, and the New Zealand Parachute Industry Association (NZPIA) will be investigating.

NZPIA chief executive Keith Gallaher said Skydive Abel Tasman, which was hosting the festival, would first look into the incident, before passing on any findings to the association.

"They'll do their own report, probably in the next seven days. We'll look at it after that," he said.

"We'll interview the jumper as well. My understanding is that his injuries aren't life threatening."

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Gallaher said he was told the man had a malfunction with his own equipment.

"If there are any recommendations to be made we'll look at those."

- Nelson

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