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.
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.
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.
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.