PEPPERELL (CBS) — Rich Gately went skydiving for the first time this weekend. Despite the tragic death of a photographer who jumped alongside him, he said he would go again.
On Saturday, a 60-year-old experienced skydiver died at the Pepperell Skydiving Center after a parachute malfunction. He was working as an independent contractor filming jumps with the skydiving company.
Gately’s tandem jump was the man’s last assignment.
“Everyone was quiet, the whole place was quiet, but you could tell that he was just such a nice guy and I felt awful because he was videoing me,” said Gately.
The pair spent a few hours together before the jump getting to know each other.
“He was so happy, he made us excited and comfortable.”
When they were in the air, the photographer “was across from me, almost reaching out, doing hand gestures, telling me to wave, and I’m just like ‘yeah!'” Gately said.
After about sixty seconds of free-falling, Gately remembers pulling his chute and feeling like he came to a halt. The photographer kept going, which Gately thought was routine at first.
“In my peripheral, I could see spinning but I couldn’t see anything else. That’s when I heard my instructor say ‘oh no’ and you know something was wrong, so I start to freak out.”
His photographer’s main chute was tangled and the second chute failed. He had 40 years of skydiving experience.
Gately will do his best to remember the man’s contagious passion, though.
“In his honor, I would say that I would still go [skydiving], in his honor.”