NEWS NEWS AND MORE NEWS I am going to get all of my memories down, before I forget what I remember!. . . . quote from Stanley Forman

7Dec/101

Hanging out and Hanging Up

PARACHUTIST DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Mon­day Octo­ber 11, 2010

My first shift of the week started off early. I got a call from Joe Roche on the assign­ment desk at my sta­tion WCVB-TV about a hit run fatal in Revere by the Won­der­land Dog Track rotary. Sec­ond call on this story got me to Lynn where the sus­pect was found at a methadone clinic and where his car was located. It was towed before I got there. I care­fully took video of the build­ing mak­ing sure I did not show any of the peo­ple who were get­ting treat­ment there.

On my way from Lynn to the Revere scene I heard a call on one of the news group chan­nels I mon­i­tor about a para­chutist who was stuck in the trees in Dun­sta­ble adja­cent to the Pep­perell Air­port where sky­div­ing is a hobby.

I called in and started head­ing to the scene. All the way there I could hear var­i­ous res­cue units head­ing to the scene and one of the fre­quen­cies said it was too far in the woods for the lad­der truck to reach the man in the trees so a rope oper­a­tion would be used.

In the mean­time one of the places the office was call­ing insisted the para­chutist was res­cued caus­ing con­fu­sion. I knew bet­ter as the out­side res­cue units were still responding.

I had my GPS on but still I was not sure exactly where I was going. I did know some of the respond­ing res­cuers which I hoped would help.

When I got near Dun­sta­ble a Rehab Five vehi­cle dri­ven by Roger Baker (it is a vol­un­teer group who help at fire­fighter involved scenes with hydra­tion and other needs) and an out of town fire chief passed me.

I fell in behind them but they were mov­ing too quickly for me to keep up with and although I was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Baker via our Nextel’s he went one way and I went another.  I ended up about 8 miles out of the way at Pep­perell Air­port look­ing up and see­ing lots of para­chutes float­ing down but nowhere near where I needed to be.

The good news was I knew the res­cue was not com­pleted and the man in the trees was talk­ing to res­cuers which meant he was con­scious and alert. I still had time to get there.

Then I went to the scene but the way the day was going with my geog­ra­phy con­tin­ued and I went to the wrong side of the res­cue oper­a­tion. Police were there and I  was told where the press was located and how to get there. Of course that was another ten min­utes away.  In the mean­time from radio chat­ter I knew the res­cue was not imminent.

I was one of the last TV sta­tions there but I had a plan. The first thing I said to the group was I think I can get us into the res­cue oper­a­tion and if I did I would be the pool pho­tog­ra­pher. They all agreed. I knew a cou­ple of the Chiefs oper­at­ing at the scene from the many fire related inci­dents I have gone to over the years and most fire chiefs real­ize the use of good pub­lic rela­tions and when this res­cue was com­pleted it had all the mark­ings of great work and a good train­ing exer­cise for their review. I wanted to be involved.

In the mean­time Kelly Tuthill had arrived with one of our satel­lite trucks. For over an hour we were all shoot­ing what we thought was the para­chute and res­cuers through the trees. Most of our video cam­era dis­plays are viewed through a black and white viewfinder so try­ing to fig­ure out what was a branch and what was the para­chute was very dif­fi­cult. I would pick a branch or two with my bare eyes and then try and find it through the viewfinder. Thank­fully I did not have to rely on this footage for our final product.

One of the Fire Chiefs came out and said they were ready for the pool pho­tog­ra­pher and it would be me. I grabbed my video cam­era, tri­pod, IPhone, dig­i­tal cam­era for stills, extra bat­ter­ies and tape. I then asked Brian Foley the Chief Pho­tog­ra­pher at WBZ if he would like to join me.

When we got into the scene the dreaded yel­low tape was up but it was only up to show us where we could be. We had a great loca­tion, able to move around and see every­thing you could see but the tree branches were an issue from cer­tain angles.

The res­cuers were fin­ish­ing putting their ropes and pul­leys in place, talk­ing to the para­chutist, Andrew Stack. Brian and I were run­ning around try­ing to cover all the angles.  I was shoot­ing with three cam­eras to begin with and Brian asked if he could help and I handed him the tri­pod and video cam­era. It was great and more fun for me to shoot stills and I knew Brian would do a great job.

We were in the woods prob­a­bly about 15 min­utes and I likened what they were doing to what I saw when I was in the woods in Man­ches­ter By The Sea after the Hood Blimp landed in their woods. Back then I did not have a great still cam­era but the video was ter­rific. This time both still and video images were very good and of course the best part in both inci­dents the men were res­cued with­out seri­ous injury. No injuries for the Hood Blimp Pilot and only leg injuries for the parachutist.

After the res­cue one of the Chiefs talked with us and adding that a new high angle res­cue unit has recently been train­ing and what they have learned was used in this res­cue. There were a cou­ple of pro­fes­sional para­chutists that came over from the air­port who had gone in the woods to help find the vic­tim and talked with him.  They described what they believed hap­pened. They both thought it was user error.

Back at the office I talked with Karen Lip­pert a pho­tog­ra­pher I work with who has done over 1100 jumps and this is her descrip­tion from watch­ing and read­ing the sto­ries that went with the incident;

“The vic­tim was a newly licensed sky­diver who lost alti­tude aware­ness and deployed his canopy late. Because he was late in deploy­ing his canopy he did not have the alti­tude or time to nav­i­gate his way back to the drop zone and ended up in the trees.”

Kelly and I went to Low­ell Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal from there wait­ing to see if we could talk with the vic­tim or his wife but noth­ing hap­pened the first day.  We went back up another day and still noth­ing then on the third day Andrew Stack agreed to talk to us (so we would leave him alone).

He was great explain­ing exactly what he thought hap­pened and he felt his hand altime­ter had not func­tioned cor­rectly thus he did not deploy his chute on time. Luck­ily his auto­matic chute did.  He knew he was a lucky man and we joked about his next jump which he hoped would be in the spring if his wife lets him.

I have been in con­tact with Andrew via email and I hope to be invited when he does his next jump, it should be fun!

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  1. Thanks for the great details! Look­ing for­ward to hear­ing more stuff about this!


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