To look at Craig Stapleton today, you'd never know he survived a horrifying skydiving accident on Sunday.
The spinning free fall and crash was all caught on tape.
"I knew it was bad when I was living it and when I saw the video I said, 'Wow. That's a lot worse than I thought. 'How did I walk away from that? How did I manage to survive?'" Stapleton told FOX40.
Stapleton, a master of 7,000 skydiving jumps, was testing a flag release stunt with jump partner Katie Nelson, when things began going very wrong.
"The speed of the deployment was too much and it actually flipped me through the risers of my parachute and fouled my parachute," he said.
Stapleton began spinning, uncontrollably, for three minutes. During the spin, Stapleton deployed his reserveparachute at the hard deck of 2,000 feet, only to watch it get tangled and stuck in the already disabled chute.
While Craig was trying to slow his descent to earth, his dive partner Katie Nelson was watching, powerless to help her friend.
"I was pretty sure I was about to watch my friend die," Nelson recalls.
Stapleton dropped out of the sky into the middle of an Acampo vineyard, landing parallel to a row of grapes in freshly plowed dirt, about a foot away from iron grape stakes.
"One of my last thoughts before I hit was, 'I really hope I don't hit an iron spike, because it'll just be messy,'" Stapleton told FOX40.
Nelson, a nurse, landed and ran toward Stapleton, convinced he was dead.
"I couldn't believe that his head was sticking up, I was like, no he's just twitching," Nelson said.
Stapleton was conscious and breathing.
"I hurt quite a bit and in my mind, I thought, 'That's a really good sign. That's a good thing.' And then I tried to get up," he said.
Stapleton was rushed to Lodi Memorial Hospital, but there was no emergency surgery, no broken bones, no internal bleeding – just a dislocated shoulder and some major bumps and bruises.
"I completely lucked out. God watches out for idiots and puppy dogs and he just let me live and walk away," Stapleton said.
Outside the hospital, were about 30 skydivers from Parachute Center in Acampo, holding a Celebration of Life for Stapleton, which he actually got to attend. If you think slamming into the ground at 30 miles an hour would dissuade Craig Stapleton from ever sky diving again, you'd be wrong.
"I think this weekend is out, but I think next weekend I'll be back in the air," Stapleton said.
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