A skydiver’s worst fear is having the parachute fail to properly deploy, and if this occurs at 15,000 feet, death would seem certain. But Michael Holmes is living proof that humans are remarkably resilient, and that blind luck — or miracles — sometimes come into play. Holmes, whose frightening plunge was captured on video (see below), landed in dense vegetation and not only survived with only moderate injuries, he continues to skydive.
Holmes’ amazing ordeal, which occurred five years ago in New Zealand, will be featured Sunday night at 10 and 10:30 (Eastern and Pacific) in the National Geographic series, “The Indestructibles,”which showcases miraculous survival stories. The network has combined video from Holmes’ helmet-cam and that of fellow skydiver Jonathan King, who watched helplessly as his friend spiraled toward earth, his chute only partially deployed, from nearly three miles high.
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It remains unclear how King was able to survive, aside from the fact that he landed in bushes. The show will examine his air speed, said to be non-survivable, and other factors, and include interviews with scientists.
Holmes, whose injuries included extensive bruising and two broken bones but no significant damage to internal organs, later said the mishap occurred because of a design flaw and not because of an improperly packed parachute. (His reserve chute also failed to deploy.)
He also said that despite having cheated death, he never considered quitting and remains passionate about skydiving. “It’s my life, it’s what I love, and I can’t imagine not doing it,” Holmes, who now teaches beginners how to skydive, said in a National Geographic Q & A. “If you have a car crash, most people will still drive again. Skydiving to me is no different from driving again.”
Of the incident and the ongoing investigation into what went wrong and how he was able to survive, he added: “I feel safe and confident for the future of the sport knowing that if and when all goes wrong you can still make your own luck and survive. Hopefully, after all this, other skydivers and even the average Joe can benefit from the findings and enable us all to make the most out of bad situations.”