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Skydiver, 18, tells how he survived 3500ft plummet

A TEENAGE skydiver who survived a 3500ft fall after his parachute failed to open has told of the moment he realised he was plunging to the ground.

Greg Benson, from East Kilbride in Lanarkshire, was left with relatively minor injuries after he landed in a grassy field that cushioned his fall.

The 18-year-old chemical engineering student plummeted at about 50mph after jumping at Strathallan Airfield, near Auchterarder in Perthshire, earlier this month.

He said that despite being aware the jump was going badly wrong, he had no time to be frightened and focused on trying to rectify the situation.

Mr Benson said: "I was focused on trying to fix it, because I didn't even look at the ground until the last second.

"I'm not saying I wasn't scared, just that I didn't process it. I was very factual and logical; I wasn't emotional.

"I glanced at the ground, expecting myself to be at about 1000ft. In fact I was only about 40ft away. I went 'Oh!'. Then everything just went black."

Having completed three successful solo skydives since November, Mr Benson was progressing to the next level in which he would carry out a "dummy pull" – when the skydiver pulls the handle to show he is capable of opening the parachute himself while a static line is still attached to the aircraft.

It appears that when he jumped he got tangled in the lines, which stopped the parachute and the reserve chute from opening.

Mr Benson said: "I remember getting my dummy pull handle out properly, then I looked up and checked my canopy and saw some of the brake lines were underneath my right leg.

"The lines are thinner than shoelaces but very strong, and if you try to pull them it's almost like steering," he said.

Mr Benson said he cannot remember anything about the impact, and felt only a dull pain in his lower back.

He was flown to Glasgow's Southern General Hospital and, although initially he appeared uninjured except for a graze on his chin, further examinations found he had up to seven compression fractures and two chipped bones in his vertebrae.

He was released from hospital only 48 hours after the incident.

The Strathclyde University student said he does not know whether he will jump again.

He said: "I'm on the fence. I would quite like to, but I think once the plane started taking off it would all come back and I don't think I could physically do it.

"I'm annoyed I can't do a bungee jump I'd booked next month because of my spine. But I'll do it once I'm healed because I have paid for it. At the end of the day, you only live once."

The British Parachute Association is investigating the incident at Strathallan Airfield, but safety officer John Hitchen said he had "no real concerns".

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