Wind gust leaves skydiver hanging

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:46

    WANTAGE-A half-hour spent dangling from a high-voltage power line would usually be enough to deter many first-time skydivers from ever jumping out of a plane again. But not Jinmo Park of Leonia. In fact, after being rescued Sunday afternoon from his predicament, Park wanted to jump again that day. Increasing winds kept Park from making another jump, but his first one gave him a story that will last a long time. Park, 41, began his adventure at Skydive Sussex, a jump school at Sussex Airport. He and another jumper were apparently blown off-course by gusting winds. The other jumper managed to land in the middle of the airport, about a quarter mile north of the intended landing zone. Park was not as lucky. Faced with a choice of crashing into the Sussex County Road Department garage on Rt. 639 adjacent to Sussex Rural Electric or hitting the power lines running to the building, he chose the lines. "At first I thought I did something wrong," Park said. He said he knew he was off course and followed his training. "You always have to be looking for a clean place to land," Park said, recalling what he had learned during four years of making tandem jumps tethered to an instructor. When Park realized he was not going to make the garage's parking lot, he avoided striking the rooftop, and his chute snagged on the power line. Park said he remembered his training about power lines, and took efforts to prevent his face from striking the wires. "He followed what he was taught," said a fellow skydiver, who videotaped the rescue effort. "The wind shifted. You could see it was going wrong," said witness Tom Delaney of Paramus. Delaney keeps an airplane at Sussex Airport and was spending the day hanging out with friends. "It almost looked like he bounced off the roof," said Delaney, who called 911 to report the incident. Troopers from the New Jersey State Police responded, as did fire and rescue crews from both the Sussex and Wantage fire departments. Firefighters quickly determined that Park was uninjured and contacted Jersey Central Power and Light to cut the electricity to the line. "He said he was fine, and he had no injuries," said firefighter Bob Regavich. "It was just a matter of him being stuck." Regavich, former chief of the Sussex Fire Department, said that in the past few years the department had responded to about three similar incidents, but usually  skydivers are able to free themselves without assistance. Park however was hanging about twenty feet in the air, where he waited calmly and patiently for power to be cut. Once the power was off, firefighters used the ladder truck's basket to remove Park and even managed to remove the parachute intact without cutting its lines. "Everything worked out okay," said incident commander John Rome. The incident provided entertainment for nearly three dozen spectators, who cheered loudly when Park stepped out of the basket. Park was evaluated by the Sussex Rescue Squad and declined further medical assistance. He said he was not injured except for some minor chaffing on his arms, and said he was not scared after being snagged. Park said he was confident that he would be rescued safely, and thanked rescue workers for coming to his aid.  He had hoped to make a second solo jump afterwards and expressed disappointment that the wind speed had increased, precluding a second attempt. "I've been waiting for years for today," Park said. "I'm not going to stop now."