On a chilly but otherwise beautiful May day, we lost a brother to a freefall collision and subsequent no-pull. John Faulkner (known to many as "Johnny Velocity" or "Johnny Wood"), an avid jumper and tandem instructor with over 1,000 jumps, died on Saturday, May 18 at Skydive Chicago during a two-way freefly jump with Jeff Brown.
John, an experienced freeflyer, had been doing tandems for most of the day, and this was thought to be his first non-instructional jump of the day. The plan was for the two to go head-down on exit and for Jeff, who has about 35 jumps, to try to maintain stability and proximity with John. "We got a lot of vertical separation early in the dive (I was low)," said Jeff. "We'd agreed that if I didn't get a good head down, I'd sitfly. I saw him orbit me once while I tried to get into a good head down, and then I decided to go into a sit.
"I believe that he tried to catch up with me (from above) after that, and I think I had gotten into a sit when something hit me from behind and on my right side. My right arm went numb and my knee hurt, and I didn't know at first what it was. As I pulled I saw him falling away from me on his back with his arms over his chest. I believe he was knocked unconscious when it happened."
John was wearing an open-face hard helmet, had an audible altimeter, and his rig had a Cypres automatic activation device that either was turned off, had cycled off, or malfunctioned, as it did not fire. SSK Industries will test the unit to determine which was the case.
Blue skies, Johnny--you'll be missed.
Note: This information is from a witness report. The results of the investigation will be released in Parachutist at a later date.
Team Funnel (a loose organization of skydivers at Skydive Chicago dedicated to the belief that no one should have to jump alone) sponsored a fundraiser in the names of Johnny and other skydivers who have passed away (for the Make-A-Wish Foundation) on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26. Their goal was $4,600--the average cost of this foundation's fulfilling someone's wish--and the total raised was over $5,400.