Apr 4, 2001, 10:31 AM
Post #1 of 4
Somebody help me out with this. I've never jumped with a camera, so I'm having a hard time envisioning how lines get tangled with it. Would it depend on how it's mounted? Side vs. top, "L" vs. box? Bad position on deployment? Just one of those "It happens"? I remember seeing a video somewhere of this happening to some one, but he got his helmet off and was fine (the helmet stayed in the lines until landing) but I didn't see how it got there in the first place.
Let me preface this by saying I DO NOT fly camera, but I did know Rich Lancaster (the fatality in NC) and I have been intently listening on the discussions that followed at our DZ and online. This is what I have found out so far. There could be a number of reasons why lines could get wrapped around your camera. These are for the most part theories, I dont particularly prescribe to one of them as to the actual cause of these accidents, but this is what I have heard. It could be from tugging down hard on the risers in order to get a main to deploy. Rich reportedly had a baglock, some theorize that he was tugging on his risers to release the main. Another theory is that you could look over your shoulder to clear the burble and get them caught. Another theory is stability, that would potentially cause this issue. Jan Davis actually commented on Rich's death on rec.skydiving a week before her own accident (which was very similar) that it may just have been "one of those things". Nobody will ever know what happened to them, but it has sure brought up discussion on camera safety. Breakaway helmets and what to do in an emergency should be a part of every cameraflyers routine. I think that there will be more discussion on this topic and how helmets are made and how safe they are. I knew Rich well and my roommate knew both Rich and Jan, we will miss them dearly. I know that I have learned from these accidents and I hope that others do as well.
I have jumped a "Para-Mount" Pro-Tec for years, with a Sony TRV-9 on top and a still camera on the front. This is a very high profile helmet, for which I have always followed these rules: 1) I modified the helmet so I can get rid of it quickly if it were to get entangled with suspension lines or risers. It takes me a quick yank with one hand to release the chin strap, then I can just quickly push it off my head; 2) When I jump my cameras, I disconnect my RSL. That way I can get the helmet off, then cutaway and get clear of the mess and fire my reserve. If you do this, be sure and secure the RSL shackle somewhere. I jump a Javelin, for which I close the shackle and shove it down deep in the mud flap. That doesn't work for rigs with a shorter RSL, so you have to close the shackle around the cutaway cable housing. DON'T just leave it dangling, and DON'T secure it to the base ring, because your three rings won't function in a cutaway. I actually saw this once, and corrected the guy before he got on the plane. 3) I ALWAYS pull higher when I jump my cameras to allow more time for the more complex emergency procedure (ditch the helmet, cutaway, get clear, fire reserve). My hard deck for camera jumps is 3000 FT. You may have to plan your dive accordingly! 4) I ensure that I pitch my pilot chute from a stable platform, then relax and fly through the deployment while looking straight ahead. I don't look up. I jump a Silhouette, which has the sweetest opening I have ever experienced. It treats camera flyers well!
I have been jumping a Bonehead sidemount with a 35mm still on top for about 3 years now. As of yet (knock on wood) I haven't had any incidents as a result of my cameras. I have had openings that pinned my head down at the neck, so that I couldn't look up, and been able to clear them. My camera was never a factor in these. When I throw I sit up a little bit and my head usually gently ends up behind my risers with me looking up. I think that having your helmet as low profile as possible is a good idea. And any camera flyer will tell you that decreasing the number of possible snag points on your helmet is important.
I feel that just like any other skydiving incident, camera incidents can be multifactorial. A number of things should be addressed when jumping camera gear. Like I said before, a low profile setup is helpful. Stability upon opening is a must. And lastly, nothing can take the place of safe, consistent packing.