Skydivers focus on safety

Published 10:02 pm Monday, March 12, 2018

A Chesapeake man spoke out on skydiving safety at Skydive Suffolk’s annual Safety Day on Saturday following his harrowing accident there last year.

Cody Marsh broke his femur and pelvic and fractured a couple of places in his spine on July 1 as he was doing something called a “swoop.”

“It’s an advanced maneuver that involves pitching the canopy towards the ground and rotating to build up speed,” he said. “It’s really fun to watch, and it’s one of the only aspects of skydiving that’s exciting for spectators.”

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Unfortunately, the maneuver is dangerous. Marsh was taking a risk by doing it, and it didn’t work out well.

“I brought it stupid low,” he said. “Nightingale came and picked me up and took me to the hospital.”

Marsh was treated first at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and then at the VA Hospital. He then went to a long-term care facility, where he left 76 days after his accident.

It was his first skydiving injury in the 12 years he has been doing it.

“Hopefully I can be an illustration,” Marsh said of his participation in Safety Day. “A lot of what happens in the sport, sometimes we push the envelope a little bit, and sometimes we can get complacent.”

According to the United States Parachute Association, 21 fatal skydiving accidents were recorded in 2016 out of 3.2 million jumps, marking one of the lowest rates in the sport’s history. Tandem skydiving has a rate of one student fatality per 500,000 tandem jumps over the last decade.

“According to the National Safety Council, a person is much more likely to be killed getting struck by lightning or stung by a bee,” the USPA’s website states.

Also in 2016, about 1 skydive in every 1,515 resulted in injuries requiring a medical care facility.

“Skydiving involves inherent risks, but most skydiving accidents result from human error,” the USPA states on its website. “With proper preparation and good judgment, most skydivers can minimize those risks.”

Dozens of people came out to Skydive Suffolk’s Safety Day on Saturday to learn about those risks and study new ways they can minimize them. Participants were mostly Skydive Suffolk’s instructors as well as its regular customers who are licensed skydivers.

Safety Day is an industry-wide event that typically takes place near the beginning of the skydiving season, usually early March.

“It’s kind of a self-policing, self-improving system,” said Mike Manthey, who owns Skydive Suffolk along with his wife, Laura Manthey.

Mike Manthey said Safety Day is about making a better experience for tandem customers and sport jumpers.

“It’s a better experience for customers that come in, the tandem customers. For a lot of those people it’s the one time in their life they jump out of an airplane. How do we make that a better and safer environment? It’s just a customer service thing on that side. On the sport side it’s how do we keep these guys in the sport longer? How do we keep them healthy and not get hurt?”