I enjoyed Paul Sitter’s article about off-DZ landings (“The Earth is My Drop Zone—Handling Off-Landings Safely,” May Parachutist). I started jumping under TU7s [round parachutes with little maneuverability] until Para-Commanders came along. I made a number of off-DZ landings but not as many as one would think. However, it was very important to get a DZ briefing before heading out to the aircraft. We had a big black-and-white aerial photo of the DZ that we used to brief all the student jumpers before their first jumps. Major landmarks were the square woods and the bend in the train tracks. If you could find them, you could find the DZ, even in the winter.
One day, it was overcast, and I was just going up to air out my rig and maybe do a little accuracy. But a friend came up and asked if we could do a two-man [a 2-way formation]. Then two folks who were just passing through our DZ wanted to try a four-man. We did not make it to 7,500 feet due to a cloud layer but still went out. Our minds were still calibrated to 7,500, so we went a little low. We landed in a field that had a powerline running diagonally across it, but the new guys did not know about them. When we landed, we noticed that the fourth guy was missing. We found him under the power lines. He had backed into them and caught the lines across his shoulders and the back of his legs. He was in and out of consciousness, and there was a strong smell of burnt person. The volunteer rescue squad came and took him away. He spent about a year in a burn center before he was able to jump again.
There were no shadows from the poles due to the overcast, so if you didn’t know, you would never suspect a power line was there. I have always made a point to get a DZ safety briefing about local hazards like power lines, highways, water hazards and irritable farmers whenever going to a new place.
Bruce Parkes | D-4586
San Antonio, Texas
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