The odds of dying from a skydiving accident hovers at a 0.0007 percent chance that you won't make it, according to the United States Parachuting Association and their 2010 findings that there are an estimated 3 million jumps per year, and the fatality count is only 21. Additionally, reports show that the probability of your airplane going down is one in 11 million. So what were the odds that a group of 17 skydivers could come out of a plane crash without so much as a scratch and capture the entire event on camera?
Last week, just that happened when a Cessna 208B carrying 17 skydivers and the pilot had engine trouble soon after takeoff from the Lodi Airport in California, the hub for the Lodi Parachute Center. According to reports, the pilot attempted to land in a nearby grape field, but a wire from a vineyard vine caught on the wheels. The aircraft nosedived, nicked a truck in the field, then flipped over before finally coming to an upside-down halt.
Federal investigators are currently looking into the crash to determine the cause. The Lodi skydiving operation has been cited twice in by the FAA over possible aircraft violations since 2010.
All 18 passengers survived the crash, and the only injury sustained was a bloody nose for the pilot. And impressively, one of the skydivers was able to tame his nerves enough during the event capture the entire incident on his helmet camera. "We never panic," Sebastian Alvarez, a professional skydiver and former military pilot, said in a report from CBS News. "We put our seatbelt backs, helmets back on and be ready for an emergency landing. You realize, 'Oh wow, it's like, wow this just happened. I'm alive, and everybody's alive.'"
It was a fortunate ending to a scary incident, but accidents involving aerial sports often don't end so well. There are harrowing stories of parachutes that don't open, aerialists who crash into terrain, and plane crashes that don't complete a safe landing.
That's why pros such as Géraldine Fasnacht, a BASE jumper and skydiver, do whatever it takes to ensure that an accident won't happen. Fasnacht has plenty of experience in adventure risk management. She was the first person to wingsuit off of the peak of the Matterhorn, made the first BASE jump in Antarctica, opened the first drop zone on Le Droit in the French Alps, and was the first woman to BASE jump in Iran.
"Accidents are always stupid,” Fasnacht says. “I don’t know any intelligent accident because they can all be prevented. Really amazing athletes have died during stupid accidents that could’ve been avoided." Three of Fasnacht's closest friends — including her late husband, Sebastien Gay — died on the same flight. The leader of the flight flew the wrong path and all three jumpers died after crashing into a cliff. "In everything, you have to be exactly sure," Fasnacht says. "You must take the right margin of error. Or don’t do it.”