What This Skydiver Did When His Parachute Didn't Open

"I literally looked up and said, 'This is what a dead person sees,'" Craig Stapleton told "20/20."
5:07 | 08/26/14

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Transcript for What This Skydiver Did When His Parachute Didn't Open
Three, two, one. Sometimes on summer vacation people go crazy. Oh, my god! Earlier this month these guys turned a trip downstream into this crazy stunt. In June, these guys decided it was a perfect day to jump off these cliffs into that current below. In July, I was in Kansas City for the opening of the world's largest water slide. And out in Utah, so many people are taking a death defying leap to swing off this natural arch, that the feds just announced they are considering making it illegal. Most of us never do these things, but skydiving, that's another story. Even former president George bush senior does it. He celebrated his 85th birthday skydiving five Summers ago and was back out there again this June for his 90th. Oh, yeah. Sky diving is such a thrill, people jump over 3 million times a year. What could possibly turn that euphoria from the heavens to a vacation from hell story? Do you have any inkling that anything was going wrong or could have gone wrong? No. Craig Stapleton knows. He wasn't on vacation but his day started out like he was, without a care in the world. We're ready. When we got into the plane last year, this champion sky diver already had 7,000 jumps under his chute. Craig leapt out full of confidence from the usual 8,000 feet. The plan was to do a jump like this, unfurling an American flag with his teammates in the sky above lodi, California. But maybe a minute into the plunge, the plan goes horribly wrong. I know I'm in serious trouble. This is actual video of the jump. At 5 thousand feet his lines are tangled with the flag, his parachute useless. Three or four seconds into the malfunction, I knew I was a dead man. I can't see the ground coming at me because it's still too far away, but I can hear the wind. It's not good news. At this point I'm probably doing 60 or 70 mills straight at the ground, helicoptering around. The chances were as you were falling towards the ground that you were going to die? I really felt I was on my last moment, hurdling at the Earth. You have to fight the panic of, this is it. Your brain starts banging through ideas right now, what do you have to do. As I got lower I was thinking about my teammates, my family, what I was going to miss out on. At 4,000 feet, the only hope left is reserve parachute. I pulled the reserve, the parachute comes out. You can see the reserve parachute on this shot. It's that white speck. But it doesn't work. It gets sucked right into the tangled lines of the Orange chute. I literally looked up and said, this is what a dead person sees. This is what a dead man sees? This is what a dead man sees. Only 1,000 feet below is a vineyard. Not only are the grape vines jagged but poles and wires surrounding the field. Landing on the wrong spot could leave him dismembered or impaled. That's Craig right there in the final seconds curling up as skydivers are trained to do. At this point he says he's feeling at peace. It was quiet and then whomp. His partners land within seconds and sprint towards him, not knowing what to expect. I thought I was watching my friend about to die. Don't move, Craig! Don't move! This is the best stuff you can land on right there. Call it luck, call it divine intervention. I missed the wires, the stakes. I hit the soft dirt that they plowed. We're talking about four feet. Yeah. He's alive! Call for help! Within ten minutes he's on his way to the E.R. No pun intended, but the sky is the limit in terms of injuries. Anything could have happened to him. But incredibly, beyond his obvious bruises, mris and x-rays show no serious internal injuries. Not a single broken bone, sprained ankle, wrist? No. Miracles can happen. We don't know where Craig plans to take his next vacation but if there's a sky dive, he'll be there. You got a free bee, you should have been dead and you survived. Every day is a bonus day. Go spend it right.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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