Novice skydiver steers himself to safety after tandem instructor dies mid-air from a heart attack

Posted on 2:20 PM by Sameer Shah

A first-time tandem skydiver was forced to parachute to the ground on his own after his instructor died of a heart attack in the air.

The learner, who is a soldier, managed to land safely while strapped to his teacher before trying to revive him following the six-minute jump.

Tragically, too much time had elapsed during the 13,000ft-high dive to effectively carry out CPR treatment on victim George ‘Chip’ Steele, 49.

But Keith Hudson, the Deputy Coroner for Chester County, South Carolina – where the jump took place – said the learner’s military skills helped avoid two deaths.

He said his experience as a soldier ‘helped him out a lot as far as making it to the ground safely.’

The unnamed soldier, who is in his 30s, had only followed a mandatory – but limited - 30-minute safety course.

Mr Steele’s mother, Betty Steele, said the survivor told an inquest that her son suffered the fatal heart attack after half way though the jump.

She said: ‘A few minutes out of the jump, he said something to Chip, and he didn’t answer. And he said something again and he didn’t answer.

‘He noticed when he looked at it that his head was slumped. He landed safely . . . and applied CPR, but it was too late. Chip was already gone.’

Mr Steele was working for Skydive Carolina Parachute Centre, which opened in July 1986 at Chester Catawba Airport.

He had made thousands of jumps in the last couple of decades, the company’s general manager James LaBarrie said.

‘There was no equipment malfunction whatsoever. From what we understand, the instructor evidently had something go wrong medically,’ he added.

This is the second accident of this kind in the history of the company.

The first accident happened in 1989, when a 42-year-old man died after he apparently failed to open either his main or reserve chute.

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