Skydiver rescued after landing in tree near Walterboro
She should have been in the air for just 20 seconds, but a woman in Walterboro ended up suspended for more than an hour.
The woman, a skydiver who hasn’t been identified, had jumped from 8,500 feet, but it was the last 75 that caused problems.
Her parachute was snagged in a pine canopy near the Lowcountry Regional Airport in Walterboro at about 11 a.m. Friday, and she dangled above as first responders searched for her and tried to bring her down.
A spotter on the ground saw her drift into the trees, said Billy Carter, the owner of Skydive Walterboro, with whom she had flown. She had landed above a swampy area, and her red parachute wasn’t visible from the road, said Barry McRoy, the director of Colleton County Fire and Rescue.
About 10 minutes later they found her, but then the challenge began.
Fire trucks arrived, but their ladders couldn’t reach her. Rescuers tried calling the Coast Guard, hoping it would send a helicopter, but authorities there declined; it wasn’t a water emergency, they said.
Eventually, rescuers reached out to Murdaugh’s Tree Service, which offered to send a crew.
Randal Thompson and Lee Murdaugh arrived with rope and rigging equipment. Thompson scaled the tree using leg spikes, McRoy said, and put a harness on the woman.
Murdaugh lowered her to safety and she touched ground at 12:17 p.m.
McRoy said he wasn’t sure quite what happened to drive her off course; he heard that she possibly had parachute issues or that another jumper had collided with her, causing her parachute to collapse. Carter said it appeared to be operator error; she simply had pulled the ripcord too late.
Whatever happened, the chute opened too low and she didn’t have enough time to glide into the open airfield.
Such incidents aren’t common, Carter said, and he said his clients had not landed among the trees in a few years.
“It was really just a tree-landing parachutist, and no one got hurt,” he said. “It was really just normal stuff that happens when you do skydiving.”
The woman didn’t appear to be fazed, and McRoy said she suffered only a few cuts and scratches on her arms and face.
She didn’t seem to be deterred either. A few hours later, at about 3 p.m., she boarded a plane and headed back up for a second jump.
That one, Carter said, went off without a hitch.
Reach Thad Moore at 958-7360 or on Twitter @thadmoore.