Two close calls at Vernon skydiving festival

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Skydive Okanagan drop-zone owner and avid skydiver Bret Chalmers tells Global News why two jumpers had to use reserve parachutes on Sunday – Jun 30, 2019

There were two close calls at a skydiving festival in Vernon, B.C., on Sunday as two experienced skydivers relied on their backup chutes to get them to the ground safely.

Dozens of certified skydivers from across the country and around the world had descended on Vernon for the Great Canadian Freefall Festival hosted by Skydive Okanagan, a business that operates out of the Vernon Regional Airport.

Office manager Vanessa Chalmers told Global Okanagan two solo skydivers had issues deploying their main parachutes on two separate trips on Sunday.

Due to the malfunctions, both skydivers were forced to cut away their primary parachutes and deploy their reserve chutes.

WATCH: Vernon skydiver passed out (July 2014) 

A no doubt nerve-wracking experience, both skydivers managed to make it safely to the ground.

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“They both landed safely right at our landing area,” Chalmers said.

READ MORE: Okanagan skydiver says he blacked-out before accident

Chalmers said both of the thrill-seekers are experienced in the sport.

“One of them has about 3,000 jumps I’m thinking, the other one has around 300-500 jumps,” she said.

Chalmers said the first skydiver experienced a “line over” malfunction, which means that while deploying the main canopy, a line passes in front of the chute prior to inflation, which can cause the canopy to look like a bow-tie and can result in an uncontrollable spin.

“The lines are below the fabric. In this case, one of the lines was above the fabric, and that’s what caused this,” she said. “If you’re not able to steer the parachute properly, you are trained to cut away your main and deploy your reserve.”

WATCH: Dozens free fall in Vernon (June 2015) 

It’s unknown what caused the second malfunction. Chalmers said such issues are fairly uncommon.

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“The more volume, I guess, the more malfunctions, but it’s very rare that this happens. Just this weekend, because we have such a large volume of experienced skydivers, that’s why we’ve seen a couple of those malfunctions,” she said.

READ MORE: Skydiving seniors prove age is just a number

Vernon Fire Department Capt. Dean Wakefield said crews were dispatched to a medical call at the skydiving centre, but staff informed the arriving members that the skydiver had landed safely and they were no longer needed.

Wakefield also said a nearby resident found the first detached parachute in his backyard and asked passing fire crews where he could return it.

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