3 Feb 2009

Debut skydiver lands safely with dead instructor

7:26 pm on 3 February 2009

A United States soldier on his first skydive has landed safely despite the death of his instructor during the descent.

Daniel Pharr steered himself and the instructor clear of a house and trees, touching down about 0.5km from the intended landing point.

They had jumped from 13,500ft in Chester, South Carolina.

Initial indications showed the instructor had suffered a heart attack after releasing the parachute, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Pharr, 25, said that once on the ground he had tried resuscitate the 49-year-old instructor, but to no avail.

He also described the moments after the pair had skydived for about a minute.

"He pulled the chute," Mr Pharr was quoted as saying by AP.

"It got super quiet. It's eerily quiet up there. I made the comment to him, 'It's surprising how quiet it is.' And he's like: 'Welcome to my world.'"

After a few seconds Mr Pharr asked his instructor a question, but got no answer - even when he asked a second time.

"And then I just looked up at him and he looked like he was conscious, but just talking to him, I realised something was wrong," Mr Pharr said.

"So at that point I realised I was just going to have to do what I had to do to get down to the ground and try to help him."

Mr Pharr said he knew from TV that he had to pull the parachute's toggles in order to steer.

Instructors on the ground said that if he had pulled too hard the parachute may have spun out of control, and he too could have died.