Sheldon McFarlane had no idea what was going to happen the day he jumped off a plane flying 12,000 feet above the Pinjarra landscape of Western Australia together with his trainee, Christopher Jones, and the rest of their skydiving class.
The Perth resident Jones, 22, decided to take a skydiving course at the Western Australia Skydiving Academy. He enrolled in the course as his way of putting his piloting dreams to rest and take to the skies in a different way. He was halfway through the program when he made that jump that almost resulted in, he says, “possibly the scariest moment of my life.”
Seconds after Jones took the leap and the stance as he was instructed, he began losing control of his wrists, and bellied up in a seizure as he hurtled through the sky at near-break-neck speed. McFarlane had mere split seconds to make crucial decisions to reach to his student in time to pull the parachute cord and guide him to safety.
McFarlane’s first attempt to secure Jones failed, the wind ripping his student out of his grasp. Jones hurtled uncontrollably through the air for another 4,000 feet until McFarlane was able to reach for him once more. The skydiving instructor pulled his rip cord, and guided Jones to safety.
Jones regained consciousness at 3,000 feet above ground, and was able to make a safe landing.
Jones has lived with epilepsy, and this had ruled out his dreams of becoming a pilot. He has been seizure-free for four years, leading him to believe his condition had improved. Prior to enrolling, his specialist wrote him a slip saying he was fit for the course.
McFarlane believes that the seizure was triggered by “sensory overload”. Epilepsy Association of Western Australia chief executive Suresh Rajan says that seizures can be predictable, and will most likely be triggered by high-stress situations.
Jones has decided to not pursue skydiving.
You may also enjoy: