Paraplegic Veteran Survives Terrifying Skydiving Incident After Parachute Gets Stuck in Wheelchair

by Courtney Blackann

It’s the worst possible case. You are skydiving for the first time and your parachute gets stuck. But then the problems intensify. The reserve chute doesn’t open either.

This very thing happened to one veteran. However, the tough young man lived to tell about it. While he was on deployment to the Middle East in 2009, Michael Vasquez lost his legs. His mental fortitude pushed him through those tough times and Vasquez stayed true to his adventurer mindset. He decided to try skydiving.

The veteran was enjoying his dive when his parachute got stuck in his wheelchair. The scary moment turned more grave when his reserve chute did not open at all, according to People magazine.

Vasquez said in the moments when all this was happening, he really thought he was going to die. Luckily, however, the main parachute opened enough to provide some cushion for the fall. Vasquez didn’t escape completely unharmed. The veteran suffered a fractured femur and some injury to his spine. But the man is going to be okay.

Ultimately, Vasquez was transferred to Medical City McKinney where he is recovering from his injuries.

“Using minimally invasive surgical techniques, we were able to stabilize his spine, so there is no further risk of injury to his spinal cord. These techniques reduce damage to his back muscles, allowing for reduced pain and faster recovery,” Medical City McKinney neurosurgeon Shashank Gandhi said in the hospital interview. 

Vasquez said he most definitely plans to “return to the sky” once he’s healed.

When Skydiving Turns Deadly

While Vasquez is lucky to be alive and well, earlier this summer a Florida woman wasn’t quite so lucky.

Karen Bernard, a 59-year-old woman, was skydiving in upstate New York when her parachute malfunctioned and there was nothing she could do but fall to her death.

“She was doing the things she loved to do. At this time there are no services planned. Please refrain from asking any questions at this time because we don’t have any answers and we’re not monitoring her page. We’re all pretty numb and in disbelief. Thank you for your understanding,” Bernard’s brother wrote in a statement.

Usually, skydiving is a fairly safe activity, with very few fatalities. Of over two million dives in 2020, there were 11 reported deaths. In 2019, there were over three million dives and 15 deaths, which officials said was higher than usual.

The cause for Bernard’s parachute to malfunction was under investigation as of July.