First time Skydiver lands with dead instructor at his back

February 3, 2009

(ChattahBox) — A first time sky diver doing a tandem jump, had to glide himself to safety after his instructor apparently died of a heart attack as they parachuted from a few thousand feet up.

Thousands of feet in the air, Army Pvt. Daniel Pharr, 25, who was strapped to the doomed teacher George “Chip” Steele, says he “went into survival mode” when his instructor stopped talking during their skydive.

Everything seemed to be normal at the beginning of the private skydiving lesson, Pharr said. He asked a question and Steele responded. They chatted for a moment in the air, but when Pharr asked another question about 5,500 feet above ground, Steele did not respond.

“This is my survival instinct at that point,” said Pharr, a soldier at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Ga. “I just kind of did what I had to do. We’re just taught to deal with adversity, whether it be on the battlefront or at home or … up in the air, and you just do what you have to do — assess the situation and keep a calm head about you because it doesn’t do anybody any good to panic,” said Pharr, a private in the Army.

Pharr, able to steer himself only in right circles because he could use only the parachute’s right steering mechanism, managed to maneuver away from some obstructions and landed safely in Chester, South Carolina.

Pharr tried to give CPR to stricken instructor George (Chip) Steele, 49, but it was too late.

The drop-zone drama unfolded Saturday when Pharr went to a skydiving facility for the jump, a Christmas gift from his girlfriend.

Steele and Pharr were strapped together as they jumped from a plane at 13,000 feet.

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

A few seconds passed, and Pharr asked his instructor another question. This time, Steele didn’t answer.

Realizing something was amiss, Pharr grabbed a steering device and tried to avoid trees and a house. He landed in a field and tried to help Steele until paramedics arrived.

Rescuers said he could have easily spun out of control and died along with Steele.

“I wish I could have helped him,” Pharr said. “I tried as hard as I could, all my training. I did everything I could.”  Steele, 49, appeared to have died of a heart attack, Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker told the Rock Hill (South Carolina) Herald. An autopsy was being conducted Monday.

Even after the terrifying adventure, Pharr said he would love to jump again.

The skydive was a Christmas gift from Pharr’s girlfriend, who he said is now having regrets about it. But Pharr assured her there was no reason for regret.

“It’s a lifelong experience now, not to be turned around into a bad thing,” he said. “I just hate it for the family.”

His girlfriend and mom, who had an agonizing wait before rescuers reached Pharr, put an end on that idea.


2 Responses to “First time Skydiver lands with dead instructor at his back”

  1. SuccessfulHomeBasedBusiness on February 3rd, 2009 12:06 pm

    A scary situation!!!

  2. Sabs on February 3rd, 2009 12:55 pm

    This is a heartwrenching story. But at the same time I can’t help but think it was meant to be. If the instructor was to die of a heart attack, at least he was not alone, he was doing something he obviously loved to do, and he had probably the most calm cool and collected student to take him to his final landing without issue and as gently as could be. May he rest in peace. Thank you pvt for doing a superb job!

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