A skydiver who survived a terrifying fall to earth is determined to get back to the sport he loves.
Liam Dunne yesterday spoke from his hospital bed about the accident, which has left him with a broken back and other serious injuries.
"Those last 1000 feet it was like here we go, this is it. It wasn’t very nice. But all that said, this is a one in a million accident and a one in a million save.
''Skydiving is an awesome sport, and lots of people do it. I’ve done 4000 jumps and never had a problem."
Dunne 35, from Taupo, said his canopy opened normally, after he jumped from 3900m at a skydiving festival at Motueka Aerodrome last week.
But he went into an unrecoverable spin had to ditch his main chute, and couldn't find the handle to his reserve canopy. It finally deployed just 228m from the ground.
That was far too low.
Dunne slammed into the ground, the force of his landing leaving deep imprints in the ground.
"As my reserve chute was coming out I realised it was too late, so I just braced for the impact I knew was coming. Luckily I hit the softest patch of ground on the whole airfield. I bounced really hard and my whole left side went numb.
''It felt like I had broken every bone in my body basically, and I couldn’t breathe. I was just sitting there dying. But my friend landed next to me, she said 'you’re alright, you can breathe'. She looked at my leg and said, 'look it's still there, not deformed or anything'.
''Fiona was with me the whole time. Then the ambulance came and filled me full of drugs."
Fighting all the way down, Dunne said he didn't have time to think about his wife Sally or his two children.
But in the helicopter, hallucinations from the pain killing drugs he was given made him think he was dying.
"I remember yelling out for them. Once I came out of the helicopter I was still alive and people were talking to me, so I was able to control my mind again."
The trauma team at Nelson Hospital helped stabilised him, before he was transferred to Christchurch Hospital for an operation on his shattered back.
Yesterday he was waiting to be transferred to the spinal unit at Burwood Hospital to begin his recovery.
His rescuers, and all the medical staff who had helped had been amazing, he said.
"Now it’s just up to me as to how well the nerves can repair themselves and how much strength I get back in this left leg."
Dunne, an experienced skydiver with more than 4000 jumps to his credit, became hooked on the sport as a Territorial Army recruit.
Despite his injuries, which also included a bruised lung and cracked sternum he said he wanted to get back to skydiving as soon as possible.
"Statistically it’s a very safe sport, and it’s great to be part of and I hope to get back to it."
A spokesman for the New Zealand Parachute Industry Association said an investigation into the accident would look at everything, including the equipment used.
The auto-activation device would probably have to be sent to Germany to be assessed, and determine exactly what height it opened.
It was his understanding that the reserve chute was not packed in New Zealand, but in Italy.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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