A Bulli man had a "close call" more than 1000 metres over Wollongong yesterday after his tandem skydiving instructor was forced to cut loose their primary parachute.
Rick Hughes was making his first jump after his partner Melody Renes received two tickets for Skydive the Beach tandem jumps for her birthday, and offered to take him along.
Speaking to the Mercury hours after the incident, Mr Hughes was full of praise for his "cool, calm and collected" tandem instructor.
Mr Hughes said the instructor's professionalism allowed him to remain calm throughout the fall.
"I had a moment of feeling like OK, something's gone wrong, but the instructor was absolutely amazing," Mr Hughes said.
He said the primary chute was cut loose after several of its lines "snapped". The secondary chute was deployed at about 1000 metres.
Amazed onlookers and fellow skydivers rushed to meet them when they landed in Thomas Dalton Park in Fairy Meadow.
"Everyone was freaking out, running over, saying wow," Mr Hughes said.
Ms Renes, who was jumping at the same time as Mr Hughes, had no idea it was her partner whose chute had been jettisoned.
"[I] saw this chute going towards power lines and another one going fast towards the ground," she said.
"When we finally landed I looked over and thought oh shit, it was Rick."
On the ground, Mr Hughes was told the primary parachutes failed to deploy on average once every 2000 jumps.
He was also told by another instructor he "should have been scared".
The jettisoned parachute caused disruption for commuters after it fell on power lines inside the rail corridor between Towradgi and Fairy Meadow.
Trains were shut down because the power lines were used to control signals for the trains.
A NSW TransLink spokeswoman said trains were stopped at 1.12pm to allow staff to resolve the issue.
Trains resumed operation at 1.35pm, while the parachute was successfully removed at 2.27pm.
The experience hadn't turned Mr Hughes off skydiving, and he said he now wanted to go on to become a qualified instructor.
Mr Hughes and his partner suffer from post traumatic stress disorder due to previous occupations, and Mr Hughes said they had seen the jump as a "cleansing" way to leave their "rubbish at 15,000 feet".
"I thought it was pretty good - jumping out of a plane doesn't cause me to have PTSD," he said.
Mr Hughes's only complaint was the company's decision to edit the video so it didn't include the part involving the jettison of the primary chute.
Skydive the Beach owner Anthony Boucaut said there was no increased risk to Mr Hughes during the fall, and said he would investigate whether the full unedited video could be provided to Mr Hughes.
"Approximately one in 2000 to about 2500 [parachutes] are jettisoned when instructors are not happy with their performance. The secondary parachutes are packed in a different format by a licensed, qualified packer and there's never been a case in Australia of a secondary chute failing in just over a million tandem skydives," Mr Boucaut said.