Christopher Jones, a 22 year old from Perth, Australia - has found himself in the spotlight of news agencies over the past 24 hours. On 1 March 2015, Christopher uploaded a video to Youtube of him suffering a seizure during his 5th level of AFF training at WA Skydiving Academy. According to him, the video was originally recorded about 3 months ago but due to travelling, he only got around to uploading it now. Within 24 hours of uploading the video had received over 2.5 Million views and been picked up by news centers around the world.
In the video, you can see Christopher Jones being assisted by his instructor, Sheldon McFarlane - as he gets his foot placing in the right position for his exit. After exiting the aircraft, he is seen establishing his body position and things seem to be going well, but soon Mr Jones, who was described by the Dropzone Chief Instructor as "The perfect student" up until this point, begins to lose control of his body position.
Instructor Heroics Gets Main Deployed at 4000 feet
McFarlane, who while unaware of the fact that the problem was a siezure, could see that Mr Jones was in trouble, and began an attempt to get close enough to him so that he could help in the release of his parachute. After a failed first attempt, Mr Jones is seen gaining speed, plummeting towards earth. Despite the difficulty in catching up with the student's speed, McFarlane then managed to grab a hold of him and release his [parachute, at around 4000 feet.
When interviewed about the incident, McFarlane stated that even though he knew that the AAD would deploy, he wanted to ensure that the student had as much time under parachute as possible. This proved to be a wise choice and Mr Jones regained consciousness at 3000 feet, allowing for him to gain control and in turn safely land his canopy.
While AADs deploy vast majority of the time, there have been incidents where the AAD has failed, and getting the chute deployed manually will almost always take preference over relying on the automatic activation device.
Questionable Medical Clearance
Mr Jones has had a history of seizures in the past. Originally wanting to become a pilot, Jones had to put that dream aside due to his epilepsy.
A doctor-issued medical statement is required before one is able to begin AFF training. Mr Jones' specialist gave him the all clear for his training, with Jones not having suffered any seizures for four years prior to this incident, a subject that has caused some debate of its own, with many doctors feeling as though skydiving would be an activity that no epilepsy sufferer should partake in, due to the risks.
Unfortunately with the occurrence of this incident, he will no longer be able to continue his skydiving career, for obvious reasons.
While seizures can be unpredictable and occur at any time, stress is thought to play a role in many cases. Naturally undergoing a skydiving program where not only are you aware of the safety risks, but also have the added pressure of passing or failing your level progression, stress will almost always be heightened.