DUNSTABLE (CBS) — A skydiver told WBZ-TV he felt lucky to be alive after emergency response crews rescued him from the tree he became stuck in Sunday night.
Skydiver Aatif Rathod was blown off course from his landing area and ended up in a tree on River Road, according to Don Mayer, the airport manager at Pepperell Skydiving Center.
Rathod said he was flying a wingsuit, and couldn’t reach the gear that would deploy his parachute–which took him off his course. He said he tried his backup parachute, and that failed.
Rathod had no choice but to give in–and what happened next is what he called pure, dumb luck.
“I ended up getting twists, line twists in my reserve,” Rathod said. “I couldn’t control the parachute, I was spinning up in the air, and I landed backward in the tree. And I don’t understand what happened, but I landed perfectly in the tree, sitting on a branch–so as luck had it, I was okay.”
It took four hours to get him down from the tree, where he was perched 80 feet up.
Mayer said Rathod was embarrassed, but not seriously hurt.
According to police, he had non-life threatening injuries and was been communicating verbally with rescuers.
“At first, we heard this crack of our tree,” recalled homeowner David Scharn. “Then we heard, ‘hey, I’m stuck in a tree.’ So I thought it was some kid who climbed a tree and couldn’t get down but then I went out there and could see the orange parachute at the top of the three and this fellow was up there on a tree.”
Scharn said the man was sitting on a branch.
“He was just screaming ‘help, help, help,’ for a bit but his friends came over eventually and they kind of had a conversation,” said Serena Scharn. “So he’s completely fine which is good, it’s just kind of freaky.”
He was one of six to jump out of a Pepperell Skydive plane at that time, Mayer said.
Rathod works in the office at Pepperell Skydive and has been skydiving for five years, with about 380 jumps under his belt–but he said he’s never had an experience like this.
He said he’s relatively new to jumping with a wingsuit.
“I had made 30 jumps on a wingsuit prior to yesterday,” he said.
He said his emergency training kicked in, allowing him to untangle his straps, keep the blood flowing through his body, and calmly wait for help.
Rathod said the sport is typically pretty safe, and he isn’t discouraged from skydiving again.
He said he hopes to one day become a skydiving instructor–but said he first wants to get everyone involved in his rescue a case of beer.