For the fourth year in a row, the "RoamingDZ" put together a special event in Dublin, Georgia. They made arrangements for an assortment of aircraft - a King Air, a couple of Otters, a helicopter, and a couple hot air balloons. It turned out to be a huge event. People everywhere - there must have been over 300 of us! It was fun to see some familiar faces and to meet new people.
Sitting on the ground watching, I was overwhelmed by the number of canopies in the air. They were working on Georgia POPs record attempts - flying formation loads with 30 plus jumpers. The winds were wicked - there was no way I could jump. In addition to the wind, it was colder than I thought it was going to be. For awhile, Jennifer and I were hanging out inside of a packing tent to keep warm.
I don't remember what we were discussing, but we heard an unusual crashing sound. I immediately knew something was wrong. "That's not a normal drop zone sound." We left the tent to see what happened. The short version - two jumpers collided under canopy roughly 150-300 feet off the ground (reports varied). The sound we heard: them hitting the ground. I hope I never hear that sound again!
When you see people running out to the field to help, your initial reaction is to run out there too. But it doesn't make sense for everyone to go, it's a job for people with special skills - like EMTS, doctors, etc. Our friend Walt was out there - trying to help. I watched in horror as they tried to revive one of the jumpers.
On March 17th, the sport lost two remarkable men. Robert Holler was 50 years old and had over 5,000 skydives. Danny Page was 44 and had over 8,000 skydives. Although I had never heard of either of them, both were well-known in the sport. It was the second fatal canopy collision of the year - the first taking place just 8 days earlier in Arizona.
Of course, the immediate reaction was to assign blame. One of the men had made an aggressive maneuver that resulted in his death and the death of the victim of the collision. In some ways, it was like a car accident. One person was clearly at fault, but it really didn't matter because it was done and over. Both men were gone and their deaths left a gaping hole in the skydiving community.
Before the accident, I was uncomfortable being in heavy canopy traffic. Afterward, I decided that I'd prefer not to attend boogies or large events with unknown canopy pilots. In order to be in the air with 30 other jumpers, I'd need to be able to trust them. They continued the boogie, but I did not jump.
Although I didn't get to skydive, I wrote the following in my log book:
3/16/07 - 3/18/07 Dublin, GA: Day 1: Too windy to jump. Got to hang out with Jenn, Walt, Brandon, Etc. Brandon won a trophy. Day 2: too windy to jump. Double fatality :(