One Of Four Injured Skydivers Still In Hospital As Army Investigates Jump In High Winds
Posted February 24, 2003 4:29 a.m. EST
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — One of the four Army skydivers who were injured when strong winds knocked them to the ground before a NASCAR race on Sunday remained in the hospital Monday.
Jumps by the parachute team have been suspended until a full investigation is completed. One of the theories being considered is not a sudden increase in wind speed, but a sudden change in wind direction.
Four members of the Black Dagger team were injured as they landed Sunday at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Their injuries included included facial laceration, a back injury and a broken wrist and ankle.
The other four parachutists landed safely.
Special Operations Spokesperson Gary Kolb said the men, with more than 1,000 jumps apiece, are the best at what they do.
The Black Daggers jumped at 3,000 feet above ground level from a UH-60 Army Black Hawk helicopter.
Kolb said safety always is the top priority.
"The initial indications we have show the conditions at the time when they exited the aircraft were at safe and legal requirements," Kolb said.
Under military guidelines, soldiers will not jump if winds exceed 21 miles per hour. According to the State Climate Office, winds at the time of the jump were close to 20 miles per hour.
Kolb said the decision to jump or not to jump ultimately falls to the jumpmaster.
"We take readings on the group, the lip of the stadium and also from the aircraft itself," Kolb said.
Col. Leonard Kiser, senior Army National Guard advisor for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, is the only jumper still in the hospital. He has a back injury and a concussion.
Compared to other Army jump teams, this one is relatively new - just 2 years old.
Sunday was the first time the team has had injuries involving multiple people.
In addition to Kiser, the other injured jumpers were:
Officials say the experience of the jumpers and their superb physical fitness contributed significantly to the minor injuries received.
One jumper was carried away from his targeted landing on the track and into the infield, where he appeared to bounce off the top of a tractor-trailer before landing on the ground, his chute caught on the antenna of a van.
Another jumper sailed into the garage area and bounced off the top of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s, hauler. He landed between race team trucks and a fence.