Heroic Skydiver Saves Woman's Life After Parachute Failure

Click to viewIf you're skydiving and your parachute fails, there's always a backup. But what if the backup fails, too? That's when you pray that you're jumping with a hero like Dave Hartsock, who risked his own life to save someone else's.

Hartsock was the instructor paired with Shirley Dygert for her first ever skydive—a challenge she undertook to celebrate her 54th birthday. But the jump took a nightmarish turn when their first parachute failed to fully deploy and the backup chute got tangled up along with it.

As they were plummeting toward the Earth at 40mph, Hartsock pulled the chutes' control handles to position himself underneath Dygert, hoping to break her fall when they hit the ground. His plan worked: Dygert walked away with only minor injuries, though Hartsock himself was left paralyzed. He's slowly regaining some feeling, but even in recovery he remains humble about his actions:

People keep telling me that it was a heroic thing to do...In my opinion it was just the right thing to do. I mean, I was the one who was completely responsible for her safety. What other choices were there?

There's a trade off here. I'm left feeling a lot more skeptical about skydiving but even more optimistic about the ability of individuals to act with extraordinary courage when lives are on the line. You can give to Hartsock's fund here. [CBS News and Daily IQ]

Update: Give Forward just e-mailed me to report that Dave's recovery fund is growing substantially, thanks in no small part to your contributions:

We've had over $25,000 donated for Dave's recovery in just three days since the story was originally published on CBS...but I'll be honest with you, more traffic is actually coming from Gizmodo than from CBS :)

Further proof that Giz readers are the best around.