Skydiving accident prompts Internet backlash

A Bay Area man who captured his own harrowing skydiving descent on video is suffering another harsh landing, this time on the Internet.

On his 30th jump with adventure sports company Skydive Monterey Bay, Gerardo Flores’ parachute deployed prematurely at nearly 13,000 feet, leaving him stuck in a tailspin that lasted 20 minutes.

Flores eventually passed out on the way down, but captured the entire ordeal on his GoPro camera. Following the incident, Flores was unconscious for two weeks, suffered broken bones and cut his tongue.

Shortly thereafter, the  Federal Aviation Administration opened an investigation into the accident.

Following an interview with CBS-SF, Flores’ video went viral. It didn’t take long for the Internet’s judgemental wrath and army of anonymous commenters to respond.

Emails began pouring in blasting Flores for using a camera during his jump and claiming he deserved what happened. Skydiving with a camera requires extra skill, and industry guidelines recommend only very experienced jumpers capture themselves on camera.

YouTube commenters shared harsh words with Flores, going as far as saying:

“I am very disappointed that you are still alive.”

However, Flores’ attorney David Kleczek didn’t seem too surprised by the response. He told CBS-SF:

“It could have been an e-mail campaign to smear Mr. Flores.”

Kleczek believes the comments are due to the fact that Flores’ incident sparked a federal skydiving investigation. The FAA released a report stating a critical velcro closing flap on the parachute container was “completely worn” and parts of the parachute’s rope had knots meaning “these lines should have been replaced.”

Skydive Monterey Bay’s drop zone manager Jackie Behrick responded to CBS-SF to the report saying:

“It’s a report, it’s subjective. … Any knots in the rigging is an event of how he deployed. It’s nothing that we had done prior to his jump, absolutely not.”

Behrick told CBS-SF she is convinced the main problem was that Flores’ used a camera during the jump. While Flores claims he told several employees that he was going to use the camera, Behrick rejected this idea and said:

“I had no idea he had a camera. We would never allow him to jump with a camera at his skill level.”

While the FAA’s final report is still pending, it’s unlikely to shed any new light on the incident as it only investigates the equipment.

However, Flores’ high-profile accident could prompt the FAA and U.S. Parachute Association to evaluate how skydiving is regulated.