A STUDENT has miraculously walked away from an out-of-control parachute plunge with just cuts and bruises after he crashed into a tree on his first jump from a plane.
Northumbria University student Liam Byrne hit the tree at high speed after his parachutes became twisted, sending him spiralling out of control at 3,500 feet.
As Liam tried to open the first parachute it became tangled and he was told via his headset to pull the reserve.
But as he plunged towards the ground, the second chute also got knotted.
Narrowly missing a church roof and a spiked security fence, Liam crashed into the tree in the graveyard in Shotton Colliery, County Durham, on Saturday evening.
But he walked away with just cuts and bruises after firefighters worked for around half an hour to bring him down.
Last night the 18-year-old said he was lucky he didn’t die in the plunge.
Liam, who studies English literature, said: “I have got a couple of bruises and scrapes but that’s it. It’s mad. I could have died. I didn’t realise how bad it was until I was brought down from the tree and I spoke to other people.
“At one point the chute started deflating and I just started falling. They thought that was it. I was coming down pretty quick and was constantly spinning out of control. I couldn’t control the chute and one side wasn’t inflated properly.”
Despite just having eight hours’ training before the jump with Peterlee Parachute Centre, Liam managed to use the parachute’s flare to slow down the speed of his fall. He said: “I couldn’t believe how calm I was. I knew things were going wrong but I knew if I didn’t keep calm that was me gone.
“I was unbelievably close to a security fence. I just tried to avoid the church but I didn’t even see the fence. If I’d have hit the fence that would have been it.”
As Liam jumped from the plane he believes his hand got caught in one of the parachute’s ropes.
But as he pulled his hand free the strings caught over the top of the parachute and he began to spiral to the ground.
The emergency parachute then became tangled and Liam began to plummet to the ground, around a mile from where he had been expected to land at the parachute centre.
But Liam, who is originally from Doncaster, said he was keen to give parachuting another go.
The first year student said: “I think the best way to deal with it is to give it another go. It couldn’t be any worse than that. Everything that could have gone wrong with the jump went wrong.
“I might feel a bit different once I get to the airfield again and it might take some pushing but right now I want to give it another go.”
Around 15 firefighters from Durham and Peterlee fire stations were called to release Liam from the tree at around 5pm.
Liam went to the parachute centre on Friday evening for his initial training as part of the university’s Trainee Skydivers Society.
Following the accident he was checked over by paramedics and returned home to Newcastle on Saturday evening.
From his home in Doncaster Liam’s father Richard said: “I first found out that the jump hadn’t gone to plan about 8.30pm on Saturday.
“I couldn’t believe it.”