Skydiver badly hurt after chute fails

A skydiver has serious back and leg injuries after an accident near Nelson in which his reserve parachute failed to open until a few hundred feet above the ground.



The man was taking part in the Good Vibes skydiving festival at Motueka Airport on Thursday afternoon and was one of a group of up to five jumping out of an aircraft when the accident happened.

Skydive Abel Tasman's Stuart Bean, who is coordinating the festival, told NZ Newswire the man's main parachute opened but he did not appear to have control of it so elected to release it and use his reserve chute.

However, for some reason that did not open immediately.

Police said the reserve parachute deployed automatically about 750 feet above the ground and slowed his fall.

He avoided the tarmac runway but still landed heavily on the grass.

Mr Bean said he was told by a doctor the man's injuries were not life threatening before he was flown by helicopter to Nelson Hospital.

He did not know how far the man fell.

The man was an experienced skydiver from the North Island and festival organisers were trying to contact his family. Skydivers were aware theirs was a risky sport, Mr Bean said.

Jumps had been called off for Thursday but would probably resume on Friday.

"It puts a dampener for the attendees but we know that the injured person would want us to continue."

The Good Vibes festival, a week-long skydiving event, is being held in the area.

The festival has attracted about 100 skydivers, including 40 Australians, who have been taking part in workshops and training sessions in sport, winged suit and recreational skydiving, the Nelson Mail reports.

The festival wraps up with a final day of sports skydiving on Sunday.

Mr Bean said Skydiver Abel Tasman would investigate the accident and prepare reports for the Civil Aviation Authority, the New Zealand Parachute Industry Association and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.