A Southern California skydiver is lucky to be alive after a mid-air mishap propelled him onto the roof of a house at high speed.
The San Diego Union Tributes reported that the incident occurred just after 5 p.m. on Friday, January 27 in Oceanside, California, about 40 miles north of San Diego. The unnamed man had jumped from a plane operated by local skydiving company GoJump Oceanside when his parachute failed to fully deploy. He wasn’t in a full free fall — his partially deployed parachute slowed his descent — but the local fire department told reporters he fell to the ground at an “accelerated pace” that was uncontrollable.
The man crashed into a residential neighborhood near Oceanside Municipal Airport, hitting the roof of a two-story home before landing in an adjacent yard. Eyewitness Amber Sweet-Smith told KSWB that the entire house shook when the parachutist hit the roof. She and her husband watched as the man fell out of the house into their front yard.
“It felt like an eternity just looking at him,” Sweet-Smith said. “We stood there like we were in shock and said, ‘He must be dead.'”
But it wasn’t him. This was announced by the Oceanside Fire Department The Los Angeles Times that the man survived the fall and was airlifted to a nearby hospital with “serious but non-life-threatening injuries.” He was released on Monday, January 30, according to the KSWB report.
“We’re just grateful he’s okay, you know, a few broken bones. I mean looking at him when he groaned, made the first groan and everything, it was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s a miracle,'” Sweet-Smith said.
Skydiving fatalities are rare in the United States, and according to the United States Parachute Association, ten people died while skydiving in 2021, the lowest mark since the group began keeping records in 1961. Those ten deaths occurred amid 3.57 million Jumps performed by USPA members – most on record. This equates to 0.28 fatalities per 100,000 jumps.
“Each fatality is a heartbreak for the skydiving community, who have collectively taken steps each year to learn from these events and improve the sport,” the organization’s website reads. “Consequently, better technology, improvements in equipment and advances in skydiving training programs have made the sport safer than ever.”
Still, the sport has razor-thin margins for error, and recent fatal skydiving accidents have been attributed to communication, computational errors and equipment failure. Last January, veteran skydiver Susan Sweetman from New Jersey died in a Florida skydive after her primary parachute failed to fully deploy. Of the 419 documented deaths in the United States between 2002 and 2021, 55 were due to equipment problems, the USPA says.
Officials do not yet know why the man’s parachute failed in the Oceanside, Calif., incident. Blake Dorse, Oceanside Fire Department battalion commander, narrates The Los Angeles Times The skydiving accident was the first he had seen at the agency in 17 years with a parachute not deploying. Dorse said skydivers regularly miss their landing pad and end up in neighborhoods.
The man jumped with other skydivers, and Dorse said others in the group noticed something was wrong during the descent.
“The other skydivers who jumped with him witnessed the event,” Dorse said. “And saw that his parachute wasn’t opening properly.”
According to Sweet-Smith, an instructor from the GoJump skydiving center landed safely on the street near her home and came over to help the injured man as he lay on her lawn. Sweet-Smith told KSWB she and her husband often heard skydivers as they fell, but the sound they heard during the accident was different.
“Usually we hear the screaming or, you know, people laughing – just up in the air, and he heard an unusual scream, looked up, saw the guy and said, probably in his head, ‘Oh [crap]he’s going to hit our house,'” she said.