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Article on Cross Keys

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Skydivers don't knock on Death's door. They ring the bell and runaway... It really pisses him off.
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The Philadelphia Inquirer just published an article on Cross Keys:

http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/12102488.htm



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Posted on Mon, Jul. 11, 2005

A mecca for sky divers

By Wendy Ruderman

Inquirer Staff Writer

There are two types of people in the world: those who wouldn't dare jump out of an airplane unless it were on fire and those who fling themselves out of one at 14,000 feet - sometimes naked - for the sheer thrill of it.

From now until the weather turns cold, hundreds of high-octane personality types will converge each weekend on a small South Jersey town known around the world as a skydiving mecca.

With yelps, screams, and an occasional "whew-whoo!" sky divers flutter from the skies above Williamstown in Gloucester County's Monroe Township, 30 minutes from Philadelphia. The town is home to Freefall Adventure Skydiving School at Cross Keys Airport.

"In the summertime, this place rock-and-rolls," said Jeff Frederick, who helps manage Scotland Run Golf Club, where golfers can begin their game by skydiving onto the first hole.

Sky divers fall at 120 miles per hour, dropping 1,000 feet every five seconds, a speed they ominously call "terminal velocity," the fastest a human body can plunge.

It is a sport that requires skill and precision. At times, it can be unforgiving.

On July 4, two veteran sky divers - one a Freefall instructor - plummeted to their deaths after their parachutes became entangled. They mistakenly steered into each other.

Last year, a 29-year-old man from Louisiana died when he deployed his parachute too late. Craig Kuske crashed into a basketball hoop and hit the pavement outside a home near the skydiving school. At the time, the homeowners were sitting on their front porch watching their grandchildren play.

Kuske's blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving, according to toxicology test results provided last week by the Gloucester County Medical Examiner's Office.

The staff at Freefall Adventures insists that skydiving is remarkably safe and that deaths, while rare, are overwhelmingly because of human error. The state-of-the-art equipment has moved the sport from "Xtreme" to mainstream, they say.

The school boasts of introducing more than 250,000 first-timers to skydiving since opening in 1984. Freefall Adventures averages 1,000 jumps on any given warm and sunny weekend. First-timers do a tandem jump, meaning they are attached to an instructor, who deploys the parachute. There have been five skydiving deaths at the school since 1998. None involved a tandem jump.

Nationwide, sky divers make about 3.2 million jumps annually. There were 21 deaths last year, according to the United State Parachute Association.

Some first-timers ask tandem instructors to do lots of flips and spins and then scream during the entire 60-second free fall. A small few ask to jump naked, including one petite woman from Philadelphia who wore nothing more than her birthday suit during a dive in late November.

"There are those who like to jump naked occasionally, but it doesn't happen all the time," said John Eddowes, one of the school's owners. "We often get some pretty strange requests. Some we try to accommodate."

Two days after the July 4 accident, first-time skydiver Ron Short sat on a picnic bench at Freefall Adventures filling out a registration form and "risk agreement," which warns that skydiving is not just hazardous, but "ultra-hazardous."

Among the first questions on the form: "Blood type?" Next up: "Distinguishing marks?"

Short obligingly wrote down the details of the tattoo on his chest, which the 18-year-old from Newark, Del., described as a sacred heart with a cross and the letters "JPMT" for "Jesus Pulls Me Through."

Short, whose hobbies include drag-racing his Mustang Cobra, said he was more concerned about the weather than about ending up dead in what some sky divers refer to as "a wet spot."

Skydiving regulars - known as "fun jumpers" - are part of an insular culture in which members are often measured by the number of jumps they've logged.

During festivals and competitions, dozens of "freefly" sky divers arrive at Cross Keys Airport, popping up tents and RVs on the property. Some sleep in their cars. Others fill up the local motels.

A day of skydiving is often followed by a night of revelry. The airport hangar is turned into a nightclub with a makeshift tiki bar. There are late-night runs to Wawa for chips and sandwiches, and night dives with glow sticks and strobe lights.

Until last year, Freefall employees hosted giant bonfire parties. Those stopped in April 2004 after a 40-year-old Freefall employee tried to leap over the flames of a 10-foot-wide bonfire from the hood of a burning car. He fell through the car's open windshield and died after suffering burns over 80 percent of his body, authorities said.

When the weather is rainy, fun jumpers wait for skies to clear while sitting on thrift-store-quality couches in front of a big-screen TV inside the hangar.

By early winter, they disappear, off to warm-weather drop zones in Florida or California.

"They are free-spirited," said Frederick, of Scotland Run Golf Club. "They like to have fun. That's their mission in life... . They follow the warm weather. They are a migratory species."

What It Costs

The cost for first-time jumpers is typically $195, which includes equipment, training and the jump.

A video can run from $75 to $95.

For experienced jumpers who are licensed to jump alone and have their own equipment, it costs $19.50 per jump except on Wednesdays, when the price is $15.

For more information, call 1-888-855-5867 or visit Free Fall Adventures' Web site at www.freefalladventures.com.

Contact staff writer Wendy Ruderman at 856-779-3926 or wruderman@phillynews.com.



kristen
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"so let go, jump in...what're you waiting for? it's all right 'cause there's beauty in the breakdown"

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Sky divers fall at 120 miles per hour, dropping 1,000 feet every five seconds, a speed they ominously call "terminal velocity," the fastest a human body can plunge.



This line cracks me up. I could think of much more ominous names for freefall if I wanted... however the phrase "terminal velocity" was around long before skydiving, as I'm sure you all know (so why am I telling you?!) :S
www.WingsuitPhotos.com

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why? It stated facts for the most part and wasn't overly negative or positive.

It could have been a scathing report just harping on the fatalities at least it offset it a bit.

The accidents happened - better that they be reported like that rather than make it sound like skydivers are insane psychos.

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To me. The way I read it. She was taking the facts to make a point that our community is not safe. The part that really didnt like which is totally my opionion is bringing up past events that has happened over a year ago. I dont like thinking of it even tho I still due. As I said totally my opinion.

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She was taking the facts to make a point that our community is not safe.



That's because it's NOT safe. Think about your own handle for a second, "mattsplat". It sensationalizes the dangers as much as this article does. I wouldn't be surprised if her article generates A LOT of tandem traffic. The circumstances are very shitty, but that will be the effect.
"I encourage all awesome dangerous behavior." - Jeffro Fincher

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Unfortunately, skydiving is not SAFE. We choose to make it as safe as possible and sometimes we screw up as in anything. People should know that it isn't a tame rollercoaster ride.

I actually have had to turn away two customers who when they read the waiver didn't want to sign the part stating that they could die. We are becoming so mainstream and so relatively safe that sometimes people do forget that there is a risk involved.

I was surprised not too long ago by a friend who it really didn't hit home that it we are involved in a dangerous sport until they finally had a malfunction. They were fine but the panic that they felt while solving the problem was unexpected.

We all love the sport or we wouldn't be here but don't forget to respect it and while it is distasteful for us to read about our friends who die it shouldn't be swept under the table like it didn't happen.

Learn from it (don't beat it to death and bicker over it like is done every single time in the Incidents forum).

If people - articulate ones - not just the drunk guy sitting around the fire too screwed up to know what he's saying - speak to the newspeople when they are around and feed them just enough information (because no matter what you say they are going to screw it up a little bit sometimes even ridiculously get it wrong) but if you don't they are going to make it up and they are going to have a chip on their shoulder because all they got was hostility and anger.

I was in CrossKeys sitting at the Alpine a few days after Sara and Ron died and the news came on. They were talking about the fatalities and Sara's family was interviewed. If you had to have publicity over a fatality, you couldn't have asked for a better report. Her family was on there with totally dry eyes, smiling and talking about how much she loved the sport, died what she loved doing, etc., etc. They commented on the current and past fatalities but except for the shot of the bodies covered by sheets in the begining it was like a promo for Freefall Adventures. I was amazed. Appalling when you are watching about people you know but step back and look at it from a complete outsiders shoes - someone who has never jumped.

On one hand they are showing that it is dangerous but extolling the rewards on the other hand. Be happy anytime a reporter says anything positive about skydiving because it is rare that anything other than fatalities or accidents brings them out.

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To me. The way I read it. She was taking the facts to make a point that our community is not safe. The part that really didnt like which is totally my opionion is bringing up past events that has happened over a year ago. I dont like thinking of it even tho I still due. As I said totally my opinion.



An understandable response, but perhaps you posted in a moment of anger. The article is, for the most part, correct. The reporter doesn't come across as somebody who has an axe to grind. Yes, she mentions that Cross Keys suffered several other fatalities. That's an unpleasant reminder, but it's something that people considering the sport should consider, in context.

I can see where you're coming from, but I don't think it was fair to call the reporter a bitch.

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Case in point, a friend I have known for most of my life, who does not skydive, sent me an email with a link to this article.

Knowing how upset I have been by this accident, he sent it as an attempt to cheer me up, saying, "From today's inquirer...pretty good article about Crosskeys."

Methane Freefly - got stink?

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pretty much seemed to me like the reporter was just stating facts...we all know these already and these are the things people who haven't jumped wanna know about....i know before MY first jump I asked about fatalities and hazards and all that stuff....i have no problem with this article.

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Yeah Wendy, I have to agree. This sums up our sport and even better...the keys. A few extra lines about how much fun we all have at these places would have been nice. Some of us try to avoid using the sport to raise hell, then again, some do not. Some are safe and some are unsafe. Sometimes we fly and sometimes we party.

It is close to the common outside perspective - I would think.

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