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Sky diving Accident

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Skirts Will Rise
Jan 17, 2002
Well another one of those stories we don't like to see. It appears that a Navy Seal and a Skydiving insrutor with over 4,000 jumps died when he had a tail strike.


SUFFOLK, Virginia (AP) -- A former Navy SEAL and skydiving instructor died after he hit his head on a plane during a jump and fell to the ground without his parachute deployed.

Brad Foster, 42, of Virginia Beach, was one of 14 parachutists practicing for a show this weekend when he jumped from the plane Friday, officials said.

Foster, who had more than 4,000 jumps to his credit, likely died upon impact with the plane, fire Capt. James Judkins Jr. said.

Foster's body was found in the back yard of a house about a quarter-mile from Suffolk Municipal Airport, where the flight originated.
Yes, that happened at the dropzone that I fly at. Very tragic. Brad used to run the skydiving business at CPK and moved over to SFQ a couple of years ago.

He was a great guy and will be missed dearly.

Before someone posts a horriffic overreaction to a seemingly callous attitude on my part, I'll give my .02 on the matter (hopefully to preempt a flame war).

We all die. That much is a given. No one strives to die in any given fashion generally, but it's a portal through which we all must pass. There are many ways to experience this; intentional, unintentional, etc. Sickness, trauma, execution, whatever. We all have our fears, our preferences. Most prefer to look the other way, to never consider the fact. Others dwell on it far too much. Some are exposed to death a great deal, others fear it and are shocked and stunned by it. This is life.

More important than quantity of life to me, is quality. I would much rather live ten years of true happiness, than a hundred of mere existence. What constitutes happiness for one is different for another. What is right for one, is not right for another. I am no fatalist, yet I don't look the other way.

I can look back and lose count of times when I knew what it was like to know I was going die; not feeling that I might, not scared to death, but beyond that to a point that the inevitable was so certain I had reached a level of understanding and acceptance. Fear of death is a non-issue. Fear of pain, hurting loved ones, etc, is another matter; each must be dealt with individually. However, given this perspective, I would much rather die at a time when I was most alive and filled with enjoyment of life, at a time when I could celebrate the fullness of life, than wait six or eight years in a hospital bed. I would much rather die quickly than slowly. I would much rather not see it coming or know, but live life without the fear or worry.

We all must die. To be taken quickly at a time of happiness is no punishment; it's a gift. Who and how and why are matters of personal belief to be answered by each person on their own, but nobody seeks out a slow tortuous death, and few would prefer to see it coming.

Blue Skies, Black Death is a saying that has been around for many years in skydiving. It is a celebration of life, thumbing one's nose at death, yet accepting the implications of the skydive. When one leaves the door of the airplane, one has a gauranteed death in 60-70 seconds (depending on altitude), if one does not do everything right, in the proper order, at the proper time, and the proper place. This is an accepted part of the skydive; it's life in microcosm.

When we are born, we know we will one day die. We do not know how long that will be. When we leave the door of the airplane, we know we have the rest of our life to make this skydive, but we do know how long that will be. We measure it in seconds.

We are empowered. We have choice. We are reaffirming our right to live, to enjoy, to be filled with life. We are being redeemed from death, we are granted freedom to live by our own act. It's not about being filled with adrenaline or a thrill, it's about freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to live, and to a very great degree, peace. To float free in space for many of us is a moment of clarity; some find it very rewarding.

No one wishes to die going out the door, but it's part of the package. It may happen. If we could step out the door and float, that would be great; the risk isn't why it's done. However, we understand the risk, every bit as we understand that bad things sometimes happen when flying airplanes. We don't shun it or shrink from it. We try to grow in skill and judgement instead, to prevent it. But we still fly. We know that skydiving has it's inherent risks, but we still do it. That's life.

Skydiving has reached a point of evoloution where in the next few years we're going to see people jumping without parachutes. Birdman suits and other advancements on older ideas have reached the point where soon we'll see attempts to exit an airplane and land on a mountain face or other steep surface with no parachute. It may have been done already. People will die in the attempt. Such efforts aren't easily understood by non-participants ("wuffo's"), but are a matter of choice for those who will do it.

We have safe and servicable aircraft and parachutes today that are built on the bloody foundation of pioneers who died in the process of bringing us that level of comfort and safety. We can be grateful to them, but they are dead. Let them have their rest. Celebrate their achievements, celebrate your own, but don't rob them their deaths in the pursuit of what mattered most. Life happens to us all. May it happen in the way and at the time most pleasing to us. May we all be so fortunate.

I took my first commercial flying job right after high school. That first season, every neighbor and competitor was killed. We lost an airplane and pilot. Since then, I've buried friends, coworkers, associates, etc. I built a career around finding employment in an industry that in some years saw fatality rates as high as 10%. How many people would go to work knowing there is a 1 in 10 chance their desk will explode on any given day? For those who do, it's understood, it's dealt with; it's part of the job. I don't wish death on anybody, but I also understand that it WILL happen.

May it happen at a time and place and in a way that best suits each of us. For some that may be as an old man or woman in bed. For others it may be in the heat of battle. For others it may be in the prime of life, doing something we enjoy. For most it is preferred to be sudden, with no warning, no pain, no fear. When it must come, let it come at a time that, if not of our own choosing, at least we may say we have lived life to it's fullest and are at peace and happy. For some it may be in their sleep. To each his own, but rob no one of that moment. It is intensely personal, cannot be shared.

I did not know Brad Foster, but I do know he will very likely be missed, and remembered well. I know he is a human being, that he has the same right to be at peace as all of us do, and that nothing can be done to change what has happened. Don't celebrate how the man died; celebrate how he lived, and let things pass. Brad Foster isn't gone any more than any of us are gone after death. Our physical self as we know it during this short time on earth is gone, but death is temporary, short, and is not an end. For Brad Foster and every one of us, there is no WAS, only IS. Brad Foster still is, and the same may be said for every loved one who passes.

In aviation we see this, sometimes quite graphically. Grief is a necessary element, and my deepest condolences to the family and friends of every person lost in any way or form.

Sitting next to my computer is my parachute rig. I may experience great things while wearing it, or I may experience death. I accept all of those things every time I suit up, every time I jump. So did Mr. Foster. Celebrate the man and the memory, not the loss. No doubt countless times before exiting the airplane he yelled in unison with every other jumper, "Blue Skies Black Death!" He knew, as we all know. We know.

May we all find the end in peace as it best suits us. For the rest, may they have peace in the end. For all, may we find peace in this lifetime in our joys and sorrows, and may we grow from it all.

Tomorrow when I can find it, I'll post a statement I took back from the memorial of 9 jumpers that died last year at my drop zone. It expresses in words what I could not in volumes; perhaps it will be more clear.
My sentiments exactly avbug. I would rather die 1000 times doing something that I loved, rather than some dumbass offing me in a convenience store. Live life.....
Gotta be more specific. There are far too many variables to answer such a question. What can happen? Nothing, or anything. Everything. Be specific.

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