A PARACHUTIST was lucky to escape serious injury after his first ever jump went terrifyingly wrong.
The man, named by Peterlee Parachute Club instructor Paul Moore as Pracheem Gamawatt, spent three hours stuck more than 50ft up a tree after losing control of his canopy during a jump at Shotton airfield.
Durham and Darlington firefighters were forced to call in a specialist line rescue team from Cleveland to recover the Newcastle University student from the tree in Peterlee.
Rescuers used an aerial platform to reach the treetop and then a member of the Cleveland team abseiled down into the tree to reach Mr Gamawatt, so he could be finally lowered to the ground shortly after 6pm on Friday night.
Mr Moore, drop zone manager for yesterday’s jump, said: “Parachutists landing in trees isn’t unusual, but it’s the first time it has happened to us here.
“He ended up about two miles away from the airfield which is a long way to go. Luckily, he landed in a tree and he isn’t injured.”
Mr Gamawatt had been fully trained, but had been making his first jump.
“Sometimes people get a little bit overloaded – we call it sensory overload,” said Mr Moore.
“He did not respond to any of the instructions given to him by radio, he did not take control of the canopy, but just headed off in the wrong direction.
“I was quite surprised to see him head off into the distance.”
Rescuers initially tried to reach Mr Gamawatt with an aerial platform in the hope he would be able to climb into the basket himself, but were unable to get in close enough.
Station manager Steve Cummings, from the Durham and Darlington Fire Service, was in overall charge of yesterday’s operation and said the rescue had been hampered by the fact Mr Gamawatt had landed on the edge of Peterlee Dene, making it impossible to get fire appliances in close to the tree.
“It was an extremely difficult rescue, given the location right on the edge of the Dene,” he said.
The team had to take extra care because Mr Gamawatt’s position was not secure. He was not actually suspended from his harness,” said station manager Cummings.
“He was effectively just sitting in the canopy of the tree, which made it even more of a difficult rescue.”
Mr Gamawatt had been taken to hospital as a precaution against ‘suspension trauma’ caused by reduced blood flow around the body, but seemed healthy. He is surprisingly well, given that he has been in the tree for so long,” said station manager Cummings.
Watch manager Tony Suggitt was in charge of the Cleveland line rescue team and was delighted with how smoothly the operation had gone.
“We have worked really well together on what has been a very, very difficult rescue, but one that went very well,” he said.
There was only so much training the squad could do to prepare for such a rescue: “No two events like this are ever going to be the same,” he said.