A skydiver miraculously survived after her parachute got tangled round her leg and she smashed into the ground at 125mph.
Jordan Hatmaker, 35, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, ended up in a rarely survivable scenario known as a ‘downplane’, where both parachutes fail, during her 13,500-foot descent over Suffolk, Virginia in November last year.
The adrenaline junkie’s first parachute was wrapped around her leg, and when her reserve was released, they both flew out in opposite directions, leaving her hurtling towards the earth, in a terrifying spin.
Jordan hit the ground 20 seconds after pulling her release cord – suffering a broken back, leg and ankle – remaining conscious throughout the entire ordeal.
She spent more than four weeks in hospital, but it only took her three months to walk again – and now she plans to take to the skies again, after climbing to Everest basecamp.
Jordan Hatmaker, 35, survived falling out of a plane and hitting the ground at 125mph after her parachute failed on a skydive
A downplane (pictured) is when the main parachute and reserve are both released but pull away from each other and send the skydiver plummeting to the ground
Jordan broke her back and leg after falling from 13,500ft and needed to have spinal fusion surgery
The 35-year-old began sky diving in 2015 and was in the process of trying to get her sky diving licence
Adrenaline junkie Jordan is still hoping to one day sky dive again, but wants a few practices in a wind tunnel before jumping out a plane again
After several months of rehabilitation, Jordan is able to walk by herself
Jordan said everything happened ‘really quickly’, but that she was conscious the entire time.
She said: ‘I didn’t have any thoughts because I was spiralling so I didn’t know what was going on, I was just in strategy mode.’
After her brief second fall, she hit the ground with her left leg, and then bounced forward to land on her back.
Jordan spent 25 days in hospital, and started walking three months after the accident.
Her plans of hiking to Everest Base Camp, which were meant to start just three days after the jump, understandably were cancelled.
But she has rearranged the trip to November – and she even hopes to skydive again one day.
Jordan said: ‘I don’t think that you should give up things that you love just because an obstacle was put in your way, life is too short and you should do what makes you happy.
‘I really hope to send a message of trying to find the silver lining in whatever situation you’re in. You never know how strong you are until you have to be, don’t underestimate yourself.’
Jordan did her first ever skydive in 2015, and completely fell in love.
Jordan ended up crashing after her main parachute got tangled around her leg
Undeterred, Jordan is still set on climbing to Everts Base Camp – which she meant meant to do just days after her accident
Jordan’s tibia, fibula and ankle were all broken in her accident
She said: ‘I loved the challenge and conquering my fears and it really instilled confidence in me. I thought I could do anything.’
Some of the highest survived falls in history
Vesna Vulović fell 33,330ft in 1972 – the flight attendant from Serbia was the sole survivor of an airplane bombing mid-air
Ivan Chisov survived a 23,000ft fall in 1942 – the Soviet Air Force lieutenant was shot down by Germans during World War II
Alan Magee fell 22,000ft in 1943 – the American airman was shot down by Germans and crashed through the glass roof of train station
She did five tandem jumps between 2015 and 2020, and then decided to try and train for her skydiving licence so she could jump without an instructor.
Halfway through her training, on November 14 2021, she tried to get in two jumps so that she was well on her way to getting her licence before the winter made practicing more difficult.
Her first jump went smoothly, but when she leapt out the Skyvan plane for the second time that day for her sixteenth ever jump, something went wrong. After about ten seconds of freefall she moved away from her coach and pulled the cord to release her parachute, but the pilot chute – the initial smaller one that comes out before the main canopy– was wrapped around her leg.
Her leg was suspended in the air as she fell at 125mph with nothing to slow her down, and she scrambled to try and free herself, but as she did her reserve chute was automatically released.
The jolt of the release catapulted the main canopy out its bag, and the two inflated parachutes fly away from each other to create a ‘downplane’.
The parachutes hurtled her even quicker to the ground, and it is known within skydiving that landing a downplane will usually result in severe injuries or death.
Jordan hit the ground just 20 seconds after pulling her release cord.
Jordan remained conscious through the entire event, even after hitting the ground at such a high speed
Jordan still gets numbness and nerve pain in her back and pelvic floor dysfunction
Jordan has been left with a scar after her spine surgery
Jordan, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, said: ‘I hit with my left leg first and then I bounced off of my butt and faceplanted, and that’s how I broke my back. There was just extreme burning through my lower back and down my legs.’
She did not fall unconscious and screamed for help, terrified she was paralysed.
She said: ‘First I tried to push myself off the ground, and when I couldn’t move anything my first thought was I was paralysed and I was yelling that out.
‘I’ve never heard sounds like those come out of my body. I screamed bloodcurdling screams.’
Fortunately she didn’t land too far from the landing sight and five minutes later people rushed over to help her.
An air ambulance was called to take her to hospital where she was told she had broken most of her lower back, her tibia and ankle, and suffered a spinal cord injury.
‘When my back broke some of the pieces of my vertebrae went into my spinal canal,’ Jordan, who works in sales for a contractor, said. ‘They gave me a LOT of medicine!’
Jordan couldn’t lift her legs or feel her skin anywhere on the core of her body and thighs.
Doctors decompressed her spinal cord before performing spinal fusion surgery and removing the bone fragments.
Two days later she also had surgery to fix her broken tibia and ankle. She said: ‘They said we don’t know what kind of mobility she’s going to have, but they didn’t think I was going to be paralysed because I could wiggle my toes’
During her recovery, she would yell at her legs to move, but despite her frustrations always believed that she would one day walk again, even though her chances were slim.
She said: ‘I was very thankful to be alive, that was my thought I had most often.
‘I had a lot of hope in that I would walk again, even though I couldn’t lift my legs or move them back and forth. I had a lot of hope that I would do everything I wanted to do again.’
Thrill seeker Jordan had a two-week climbing trip planned to hike to Everest Base Camp for three days after the accident. ‘It was my Mount Everest before my Mount Everest!’ she said.
‘It was just one big mountain to get me ready for the next.’
She did everything, including bathing and going to the toilet, from her bed for 15 days until she managed to sit up in her bed unassisted for the first time.
Jordan stayed in hospital for a total of 25 days recovering and undergoing physical therapy, before returning home to her two cockapoos, Jax and Ella, and rabbit Cardi B. She lifted her legs for the first time herself two weeks later.
It took Jordan three months to be able to walk again after her accident
She says she is ‘thankful that the accident happened’ as ‘a lot of growth has come from it’
She said: ‘That moment I could only lift it maybe half an inch off the bed but it was just so great to conquer a milestone. It was a sign of progress and I was really thrilled and excited, it just gave me more motivation to keep going.
‘I started walking three months to the day of the accident.’
She still suffers from other aspects of the spinal cord injury, like numbness, nerve pain and pelvic floor dysfunction, but has plans to finally conquer Everest Base Camp in November.
She said: ‘It doesn’t feel real, it feels like so surreal that that even happened but I’m thankful that the accident happened. I feel like there’s a like lot of growth that came out of it, and I really think there’s opportunity in tragedy.
‘You can always find something positive even if you can’t see it now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you’re going to be better for whatever you’re going through.’ Jordan even hopes to skydive again one day, after doing a few practices in the wind tunnel.
‘Don’t tell my family!’ she joked. ‘We’ll see what happened when I get to the plane door.’