Injured skydiver recovering in spinal unit

Last updated 11:39 18/08/2012
skydiver
HELEN MURDOCH/FAIRFAX NZ

EARLY CARE: St John Ambulance officers are among those helping skydiver Liam Dunne.

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The injured Taupo skydiver recovering in Christchurch's Burwood Spinal Unit after breaking his back heads a company dedicated to the adrenaline-filled adventure sport.

Liam Dunne broke lower vertebrae during a jump from 3900 metres at a skydiving festival at Motueka Aerodrome.

His main chute was jettisoned at 1200m and he fell another 900m until his emergency chute automatically opened 225m above the ground.

Observers believed only the sodden wet ground he landed on helped him escape more serious injury.

The force of his landing caused deep imprints in the ground.

The experienced skydiver with more than 3500 jumps to his credit became hooked on the sport as a Territorial Army recruit.

In 2010 Mr Dunne and his wife Sally bought Taupo-based adventure clothing design and manufacturing company Deepseed after investing in a half share of the business in 2006.

The company enjoyed 1500 per cent growth of sales in the first three years until it reached a plateau and the couple decided to become sole owners. The company now exports a range of active wear clothing to 38 countries.

Mr Dunne’s injuries were not considered life-threatening and he was conscious and talking to his wife yesterday before undergoing surgery at Burwood late yesterday afternoon.

The Good Vibes festival, organised by Skydive Abel Tasman, and attended by about 100 sport and recreational skydivers, was put on hold following the incident but restarted yesterday.

The festival ends on Sunday.

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.

"Talking to Liam might take a little bit of time and he may or may not remember much," the spokesman said.

It was quite common for people to not remember the accident, he said.

Something went wrong in about one in 20,000 descents, he said, so it was uncommon.

Mr Dunne, known as "Geezer", is originally from Liverpool, moved to New Zealand in 2003 and owns the skydiving shop Deepseed in Taupo. He has two children.

On the store's website, it said he did his first jump in the Territorial Army on a static line in 1998, and had done more than 3500 jumps by 2006.

On Mr Dunne's Facebook page, a post from July 30 said he was delighted he had been asked to be an official part of the NZ Parachute Federation Delegation to the World Parachuting Championships in Mondial, Dubai in November.

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- Nelson

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