A civilian pilot left the controls of his small plane while he untangled a British Army parachutist who got tangled up in the landing gear, London's Sun newspaper reported on Saturday.
The British soldier was one of six participating in a parachuting competition at the Joint Service Parachute Centre at Bad Lippspringe in Germany. The first five jumped from the plane successfully, but when the sixth — the instructor — tried to leap out and open his chute at an altitude of 3,000 feet, it only partially deployed, The Sun reported.
The flier left his seat for about 30 seconds to reach out and cut the parachute lines that got caught on the twin propeller engine Islander's undercarriage, according to The Sun.
The pilot, a former soldier, has asked not to be named, saying he was "only doing his job."
Witnesses on the ground described a shocking scene.
"We saw a body dangling helplessly from the plane as it was coming in to land," one onlooker told The Sun.
Another said that those watching in horror assumed the aircraft would have to touch down with the man trapped underneath, the paper reported.
But once the soldier was freed, he was able to open his reserve chute and jump safely.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense praised the courageous endeavor.
"The pilot showed significant bravery and skill," a spokesman said. "We are unaware of a rescue like this happening before."