Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Thrill Of The Swoop

"It will change your situation, for sure. But it won't change who you are. If you were mean before, you will still be mean. If you were a go-getter before, you will still be a go-getter."
"I wasn't angry at the world or at skydiving because it was all my fault. I wanted to be able to put that away and go to work on something else. It was more about that."
Steve Verner, Quadriplegic skydiver
Steve Verner is 36, and he is a quadriplegic, caused by a skydiving accident in May of 2012. As a result of that event, he suffered a broken back, a broken neck and a fractured skull. All from a botched highspeed landing in a "swoop" event, something he had done hundreds of times previously. But during this routine event, he somehow miscalculated, and in such a precision-dangerous event all it takes is one minuscule miscalculation to result in disaster.

In a sense, he was fortunate. Most sky-divers committed to getting their highs from "swooping", a manoeuvre requiring a high-speed turn close to the ground, have been killed outright. In this man's experience that so altered his life a tiny miscalculation led to loss of mobility. Loss of his marriage, as well, no doubt. He has two sons, ten and eight-years olds.
 Swooping in low

The manoeuvre is a popular one among skydivers who have long become accustomed to the thrill of ordinary jumps and needed something more to get the adrenalin flowing again. So they took to swooping fast and low over a long shallow pond before finally landing on the ground. And then they're judged in their performance on speed, distance and accuracy.

When Steve Verner entered that steep 370-degree turn to generate speed, he found himself unable to recover from the turn in time; swooping over the field, his feet and knees smashed into the ground at over 70 kilometres an hour. then his body bounced hard off the field, and, with his chute still open, he swept back into the air two storeys high before coming back down to ground, bouncing twice.

He hadn't been wearing a helmet, and though he spent two weeks in a coma, no brain damage was sustained. Six weeks spent in the trauma unit, another seven months at the rehabilitation centre of The Ottawa Hospital. And then his decision to take to the air again, one year following his catastrophic accident.

Steve Verner, a Gatineau construction contractor and father of two, broke his neck, back and skull in a May 2012 skydiving accident that left him a quadriplegic.

Once, his oldest son Zack asked his father "If you could go back in time, would you still skydive?" His father responded, "Of course I wouldn't jump. But I can't go back." But then, what are his sons, Zack, and Matheo 8, to think, when they stood there watching their father perform a tandem skydive less than a year after his accident.

Steve Verner leaps once more.

"It was very emotional. But at the same time, I was really happy to skydive again", he said. As a quadriplegic, he is continuing his interest in pushing limits and experiencing great exhilaration in the doing of it. He went gliding and water-skiing, and has plans for the future to bungee jump and paraglide.

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