Veteran skydivers can opt not to wear lifesaving device

Rick Hinshaw
Rick Hinshaw
Shaun Dunn
Shaun Dunn

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

MOKULEIA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Skydive Hawaii instructor and videographer Ashley "Ash" White made more than 12,500 jumps. A collision in mid-air Sunday knocked him unconscious, and he fell to his death.

He did not have a reserve parachute equipped with an Automatic Activation Device (AAD).

"Ash" had more than one parachute and he had a parachute with an automatic opener on it. So it was his personal choice not to choose that rig for whatever reason," Skydive Hawaii owner Rick Hinshaw said.

The company makes AAD's mandatory for student skydivers and for tandem jumps.

The devices are equipped with a computer chip that triggers a reserve parachute if the main one fails to open.

"When the AAD fires, it actually cuts the loops of the reserve from the back side," said Shaun Dunn, Skydive Hawaii's training and safety instructor.

But veteran skydivers are not required to have an AAD on their parachutes during solo jumps, and many opt not to use them.

Dunn said they can be calibrated incorrectly, misfire, and create an emergency.

"When you pull your primary and the AAD is firing the reserve, what happens is you have a situation where you have two canopies out, which could be just as dangerous a situation," he said.

The parachutes could get tangled.

Some skydivers said an AAD does not guarantee a safe or a soft landing for skydivers in distress or unconscious like White.

Hinshaw estimates less than half of his expert skydivers use the devices. He wants them to reconsider the safety AAD's can provide.

"I recommend them to everybody," he said.

The U.S. Parachute Association oversees the sky-diving industry. Up to now it has not required expert skydivers to use AAD's when skydiving alone, leaving it up to a skydiver's discretion.

White made that choice every time he jumped out of an airplane.

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