The Day CYPRES Saved My Life: Pete Serafimovski’s

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Pete Serafimovski, 48 years old, has been jumping since 2003. In that time, he has racked up more than 1,300 jumps without any kind of reserve-requisite incident — until the first jump of the 2019 season. On May 5th, he not only got his first-ever reserve ride, it was via CYPRES — and he certainly would have been a statistic otherwise. Here’s his CYPRES story in his own words.


Pete Serafimovski
Pete Serafimovski

I’m just a regular guy. A weekend warrior. I have my own business, and a family and I don’t get out very much. I come out a couple times a month.

I didn’t jump at all during the winter. I didn’t get a chance to travel away to jump in the warm weather. Sometime towards the end of September — or maybe the beginning of October — was my last jump, so I sat around all winter, working, and didn’t jump anywhere. Then the season finally came, and the weather was good. I came out to do a jump. I was kind of rusty.

I had bought a new rig the season before. It’s a little shorter on my back than my old rig was. It’s a little higher and a little tighter. I had a problem trying to get back to my hackie. On this particular jump I was stiff and out of practice, too; I hadn’t stretched. Looking back on it, I should have stretched a bit more.

The first jump we did was at 18,000 feet: a high-altitude, a two-way freefly jump. I did not do my emergency procedures before I got on the plane, and I feel like I didn’t plan the jump as much as I should have.

Anyway, we did our thing. We had a good jump. We broke off at our normal 5,500’. We got a good separation. I waved off at about 3,900’ and went back to reach my hackie. I couldn’t reach it. I kept going for it and going for it. Nothing worked. I took way too long.

I didn’t even think about going for my reserve. I think that’s because it was my first time having to use my reserve, and I always thought my first reserve ride was going to be a cutaway. The fact that this was straight to reserve came out of left field. I didn’t panic. I wasn’t even really worried about it. I was like, “Hang on, I’ve almost got it.” But I think as I was doing that, I was going head-down, so I was speeding up and I had less time than I thought I did.

I tried to reach back with my other hand and push my rig over so I could grab the handle. Doing that rolled me over on my back. As I did so, the first thing I thought about was that my CYPRES was definitely about to go off. Funny enough, that’s exactly when it popped on me.

The reserve popped out really nice and clean on-heading perfectly, so I know my rigger did a great job packing the reserve. I didn’t even hear it go off. I just felt the tug. Nice clean opening, nice and smooth, straight-in landing. It wasn’t an abrupt jump or a crazy ride. It was actually really nice.

Pete Serafimovsk Photo by Jules Royale
Photo by Jules Royale

People said they heard [the pop] on the ground, but I didn’t. It wasn’t a loud explosion or anything. I was over a field, so I got lucky. No trees. My CYPRES had been set for the normal altitude and my Dytter says I was under canopy at 400 feet.

Keychain from Pete´s CYPRES cutter
Pete made this keychain to remind of him of the day CYPRES saved his life!

The biggest lesson I took from this is that [a CYPRES ride] can happen to anybody. [Jumpers] get complacent with their gear. I know I did. I got dependent. I knew my CYPRES was going to pop on me, which I never should have waited for.  If I had forgotten to set it or if it hadn’t gone off, it would have been a big problem.

Now, I tell other jumpers: Make sure you practice procedures. You have got to practice this stuff if you are new, or if you’re a 20,000-jump jumper.  I’ve been jumping so many years that stuff got pushed back.

Every day I think about that jump and I go why didn’t I go to my reserve. Why did I wait for the CYPRES? If I had forgotten to turn it on, I wouldn’t be here. And thinking about the fact that 400 feet under canopy is not a very big distance. For the first 3 or 4 days, I had big nightmares about what could have happened. I couldn’t sleep. It was a tough time for me. It has been about a month and I am waiting for my rigger to get my equipment back together, which gives me time to clear my head and plan my strategy.  

At any rate, I learned a lesson, and I just hope I can help people. I’ve jumped without [a CYPRES] before when it has been out for service for a couple of weeks. Trust me, I will never do that again.

 

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