This story from today’s Guardian should be fiction but isn’t.
A stunt skydiver and cameraman who survived a 6,000ft (1,829 metre) fall on to a remote Russian mountain when a parachute jump went wrong has told of his miraculous escape.
James Boole, 31, suffered a broken back, a cracked rib, a bruised lung and several chipped teeth following the jump last month when he hurtled to the ground at approximately 90 miles per hour, landing in a snowdrift.
Boole, a veteran of 2,500 skydives, was filming for a television documentary with another skydiver in the remote Russian region of Kamchatka when the accident happened. He and the other skydiver were disorientated by the snow and were unable to judge the altitude as they came to land on the final jump of their 10-day trip.
Boole said that in the two seconds before he hit the ground, he was aware that there was not enough time to open his chute and thought he was about to die.
“I didn’t panic or freak out,” he said. “In those two seconds I just thought of my wife and young baby and the sadness of not seeing them again plus the loneliness of my death.”
His parachute partially opened, but far too late, and he landed on his back and was briefly unconscious from the impact.
Then he faced an agonising half-hour wait in sub-zero temperatures before a helicopter was able to reach him. It was three hours before he was able to reach the nearest hospital.
“I opened my eyes and was immediately elated to be alive,” he said. “I did not think I would survive the fall. Breathing was incredibly difficult, there was blood in my mouth and I was in excruciating pain from my spine. My first three instincts were to breathe, vomit and scream.”
He was concerned as there was quite a lot of gurgling from his airways and about the difficulty of accessing medical treatment in such a remote area of Russia.
“There was no Hollywood moment of my life flashing in front of me as I fell, there was no glory that jumpers sometimes fantasise about if they are facing death,” he said.
“During that half hour, I was going through great highs and lows of emotion. I was glad to be alive and just wanted to see my wife and daughter but was thinking I wouldn’t ever be able to work again and would never recover from my injuries.
“In the end I thought those thoughts weren’t very useful and just had to focus on my immediate problems as my broken rib was making it difficult to breathe.”
Boole was taken by helicopter and ambulance to the nearest hospital at Kamchatsky city.
The hospital was primitive “with paint peeling off walls, the filaments visible in lightbulbs, patients in corridors, smoking allowed on wards and blood on the x-ray machines”. As for the food, he says it was “absolutely disgusting”.
Within 48 hours, he discharged himself from hospital and transferred to Moscow for further treatment. “I got to hospital and immediately had a CT scan, which was able to get a diagnosis.”
He flew back to the UK for further medical treatment at a hospital in London and is now home with his family in Tamworth, Staffordshire, where he is enjoying spending time with his daughter.
“Thanks to the back brace I was able to stand up after six days,” he says. “Over the last three weeks I have been taking my first tentative steps again.”
He has given up skydiving with a camera but will continue with the sport for fun. “I have re-evaluated my life and it is not something I want to ever do again with a camera,” he added.
“However, I have my own motivation to jump for fun and I will continue to do that.”