Pregnant Parachuter Survives Accident

ByABC News via logo

Dec. 14, 2005 — -- Before she took the jump, Shayna Richardson seemed completely prepared to make her first 10,000-foot accelerated free fall -- known by sky divers as an AFF.

"I'm going to walk out, get OK'd," she explained on a homemade video before the jump, appearing excited and in total control.

But things went terribly wrong. Richardson's main parachute failed and her reserve didn't deploy properly. The 21-year-old began falling at a rate of about 50 mph and landed face-first in a Siloam Springs, Ark., parking lot.

"I didn't know I had anything wrong with my parachute until a few seconds after I deployed," she said. "It opened properly and was above my head fully inflated. It was shortly thereafter that one of the steering toggles snapped loose and sent me into an uncontrollable spin. I didn't realize that was the problem, so I had to cut away to what was supposed to be a guaranteed open with my reserve, which only opened partially."

The entire descent was taped, and, in the background, Shayna's boyfriend, Rich West, who is a skydiving instructor, could be heard shouting, "Shayna, pump the brake."

The bones in her face and pelvis shattered like "eggshells," and doctors put steel plates in her face. While at the hospital, she also found out that she was two weeks' pregnant. The baby, who was unharmed, is due in June.

On the way down, Richardson said she surrendered to God's will.

"I let go of my steering toggles, and I just asked God to take away the pain of the impact," she said. "I told him I was ready to go home; I just didn't want to feel that pain."

She does not remember anything after that, except the ambulance. West said that she tried to sit up after the impact and that he made her stay down and told her to relax.

"She spit her teeth out," he said. "I realized she lost all her teeth."

"There is no logical explanation to why I lived," Richardson said. "It simply comes down to God had his hand in that."

Despite her brush with death, she plans to go skydiving again in August.

"You need to go for yourself," she told Diane Sawyer. "You have to do it once to understand."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events