I crashed at the Dumps last Sunday, resulting in 5 fractures of the transverse process of my spine, a fractured lower rib, and a chip fracture of my pelvic bone.
The good news is that I sustained no permanent injuries. Doctors say that it will take 6-8 weeks to heal completely.
The wind was very southerly that day so everyone was launching from Cheetah and mostly staying in that area. I had been flying for around 20 minutes when I realized I had gotten low and headed back from over the ocean to regain some altitude. I was out over the right farthest point off Cheetah (see image) when I decided to head back towards the processing center over the Bowl.
Yes, the Bowl-- probably the worst place to land at the Dumps. I had made this pass two or three other times that day but this time I approached it more casually, since I had done it before. Somewhere, I'd guess 4-5 seconds before I expected to make my turn into the expected lift, I hit bad air. I took a quick glance at my wing and noticed that it was not filled with air and that I now was sinking faster than expected. Though a right turn would be the closest to land there was a cliff there and a collapse or continued drop would result in ending up in the Bowl and ocean. There was no beach. The prospects were the same for a left turn at that time. My altitude was high enough and I was sure I'd make it to the road, but the guardrail could become an issue if I dropped too low. So straight in it would have to be, and I hoped the air did not get any worse.
As I rapidly descended with about 2 seconds left I saw that I wouldn’t be able to clear the guardrail. I thought that a straight- in approach might be better than hitting it backwards, but it would be a hard landing and there would be no impact protection at all. I decided that a quick left Hook turn would put the harness, with its protection, between myself and the guardrail however, that the impact would be on my backside. I also hoped there would be a blast of air hitting the cliff wall at that point so that I might catch it with a Hook turn and slow my forward directed impact speed. I was really hoping for a blast of air coming up the cliff face and saving my ass. But as I made the turn I found no saving air blast. It did, however, lower my speed slightly. Now the thought “Prepare for impact!” flashed through my mind as I saw the guardrail fast approaching.
I remember hitting very hard. Suddenly I became aware that I was lying on my back on the ground with one leg over the rail. My whole back side was numb. I decided not to try to move anything, not even turn my head. I was extremely lucky landing the way I did, in a comfortable position without any great pain, wedged at the guardrail. I found that I was able to think clearly and be calm. I could hear people running to come help me. I remember Harry, Ann and Loren, there were more. They each took a task to get me emergency help and took the responsibility for my equipment and for contacting people. Once I was moved by the emergency crew the pain started and continued. I was in the Emergency Room all night having x-rays and scans and being checked for internal injuries. I was transferred to a floor for overnight observation and able to leave the following day. My wife Marian has been taking wonderful care of me for this past week. Also want to thank Mark Bernier and Tettey who drove Marian to the hospital on Sunday and again came Monday to take me home.
I am very grateful that all turned out so well despite the fact that I made such bad flying decisions. When flying over risky areas expect that bad things could happen.
Image link of the area at the Dumps where it happened.
Safety and Fly related incidents and accidents
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