Injured Aspen BASE jumper recounts accident
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado – Ted Davenport was resting at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction Thursday, after hitting the ground in a BASE jump mishap Wednesday morning outside Rifle.
He was released from the hospital and was on his way home to Aspen early Thursday afternoon.
Davenport, 28, jumped from a spot on Anvil Points that he calls “The W Hotel.” Davenport is a professional BASE jumper and freeskier who lives in Aspen. And contrary to what authorities said Wednesday – that Davenport’s parachute only partially opened – the extreme athlete said that he was able to fully deploy the parachute before the impact.
“The issue was that I was very close to the ground after I opened and released my steering toggles,” Davenport said.
He said the jump actually went very smoothly, and that he was in control the entire time. That is why his injuries – bruised lungs and a sore back – were not more severe, Davenport said.
“I’m a little sore,” he said. “I kind of feel like I went and stood in five o’clock traffic, but I’m completely, 100 percent OK.”
Explaining what happened during the jump, Davenport saidhe did everything according to plan.
“I did not fall 2,000 feet,” he said.
“The jump is not a fall, it’s a very calculated display of human flight. I’m in control of my body and where I’m going throughout the freefall,” he said.
Davenport and two friends had all jumped from the 817-foot cliff in close proximity to one another, at the same time. Davenport said he performed an aerial maneuver and when he pulled out of it, was descending in a “head low” position – his body was vertical with his head pointed downward.
“If I would have opened my parachute in that body position I would have most certainly opened it with line twists and in an off-heading opening, facing the wall – which would have been far more dangerous,” he explained.
Instead, he continued to freefall and flipped his body over into a flat and stable body position, horizontal to the ground, then deployed his parachute.
“My parachute opened 100 percent, on heading, perfectly,” he said.
He was just too close to the ground.
“At that point, when I popped my [steering] toggles, I was very close to the talus and was unable to outfly the angle of the talus,” he explained. “I impacted the talus with my back.”
Landing on his back in this type of situation is what he plans for – Davenport wears a back protector, which, he said, is why he didn’t sustain more severe injuries.
“I had a hard impact, and I had a lot of back and lower torso pain,” he said.
Knowing that he could have seriously injured his spine, he didn’t move. However, he signaled to his two friends, still in flight, to let them know that he was OK. They landed at their designated landing zone between a quarter- and a half-mile from Davenport, down the talus (or scree field) at the base of the cliff, dropped their gear, and hiked back up to him.
“I was immediately on the radio so the people know that I was conscious, and I was awake and breathing,” Davenport said.
Davenport and his team were accompanied by their safety coordinator, Jeremy Gruber, who is an emergency medical technician, and another support crew member. The support crew remained on top of the cliff so that if anything did go wrong, they would have a good view of the situation and could coordinate the rescue efforts efficiently, according to Davenport.
Gruber called 911. According to Chad Harris, deputy fire chief with the Rifle Fire Protection District, emergency crews arrived on scene in 26 minutes but were unable to reach Davenport because of “complex and vertical” terrain.
According to Davenport, no rescue personnel ever reached him until a Colorado Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter flew into position and extracted him using a T-arm sit device on a long line. To aid in the rescue, Davenport had an emergency global positioning system device, which relays his exact coordinates to rescuers.
Being a professional BASE jumper, he’s made hundreds of jumps in his life. He always wears a helmet, full body armor, and always has a team meeting with his support crew and other jumpers prior to the jump, to determine what the plan is if something does go wrong. Those precautions are the reason that he walked away from Wednesday’s accident, despite some bumps and bruises, he said.
“We plan accordingly for any scenario, we are ready for anything, because obviously BASE jumping is a very dangerous sport,” Davenport said. “We are all professional athletes. We all take this very seriously, and we plan accordingly to make any sort of rescue go as smoothly as possible. And that is exactly how it happened yesterday.”
Davenport has compiled 286 jumps in the four years he has been BASE jumping, 33 from the W Hotel.
He and two friends first jumped the W Hotel in 2006, Davenport said. And he doesn’t plan on slowing down after this accident.
“This won’t affect anything,” he said.
He still intends on more jumps this summer and is scheduled to leave for New Zealand at the end of August to compete in the World Heli Challenge, an extreme big mountain ski competition.
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