A skydiver who survived a fall of 12,000 feet thanks to the thorny branches of a blackberry bush has released dramatic footage from his helmet camera, capturing his rapid descent towards earth as he plummeted helplessly to what seemed like certain death.
Michael Holmes, from Jersey, made headlines across the world when he escaped with a punctured lung and broken ankle after both his main and auxiliary parachute failed to open during the two-mile drop over Lake Taupo in New Zealand on December 12.
The ordeal was captured by a camera attached to his helmet -- which continued filming even after he landed -- together with footage from the helmet camera of a fellow parachutist.
The video shows Holmes, 25, spiraling uncontrollably after pulling the parachute ripcord at 4,000 feet and finding that it failed to open, but caught enough air to start spinning him violently in the air.
As he tumbles towards the ground at 80 mph, the skydiver is seen checking the altitude reading on his left wrist as he struggles to turn onto his back to try to spot the problem and correct it.
In the final seconds of his fall, Holmes waves at the camera and yells “bye” before the image of his shadow growing larger beneath him fills the screen and the picture suddenly goes black.
A low moan is then heard as he tries to breathe with one lung punctured by ribs snapped on impact. The camera of fellow parachutist, Jonathan King, then comes into play, showing King pushing his way through the blackberry thicket toward Holmes as he calls frantically: “Talk to me, man. You Ok?”
“No,” comes the response.
Holmes, who ranks among the world’s top ten skydivers, insisted he wanted to continue with the sport, but admitted that he probably had “used up his share of luck” was likely to feel some apprehension before his next jump. He said the accident had been a “million-to-one” chance and he plans to continue making his living by skydiving.
“Friends ask if I was scared but really I was just angry that I’d done everything exactly as I should and it hadn’t worked,” he said in an interview. “I was very focused on what I was doing and I remember everything. Nothing’s a blur."
Recalling the final moments before he hit the earth, he said: “You see the ground rushing up and it’s just an imminent impact...I tried to think of something, the right thing to say for the camera.
But I looked at the ground again and without thinking I just blurted out: ‘Oh s***, I’m dead...bye.’ People have asked me since if I saw a white light or my life passing in front of me in that split second but there was nothing.”
Holmes, who was in hospital for just 11 days after his ordeal, said he estimated that he reached terminal velocity of 121 miles an hour during the free fall part of his jump, but the drag of the tangled parachute had subsequently reduced his impact speed to around 80 mph.
He missed a nearby airport car park by less than 30 yards, landing on his side in the blackberry thicket, which arrested his fall, saving his life.