When the Australian thrill-seeker jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet in August 2013, the first few moments were totally exhilarating. They may even have been the most exciting seconds of his young life so far. But the exhilaration soon turned into rising consternation as he continued his fall and realized something that was terribly wrong. All at once, it appeared as if his worst nightmare was coming true.
In 2012 local man Brad Guy was working as a digital editor for a radio station in the city of Melbourne, Australia, when he turned 21. To mark the momentous occasion in style some of his friends and family clubbed together to buy him an activity gift. They hoped to give Guy an experience he would never forget. As it turns out, that is exactly what the birthday present donators’ money bought.
Guy was known to his loved ones as a bit of a daredevil. So it probably came as no surprise to the birthday boy when he was presented with a voucher for a tandem skydive. As a result, one year later, Guy found himself at an airstrip in the nearby Yarra Valley, psychologically preparing himself to be hurled out of a moving plane.
The run up to his skydive will never leave Guy. He had brought along his a large family group to witness his daredevil stunt, including his parents, his three sisters and their families, as well as his doting boyfriend, Artie. The party planned to make a day of it, enjoying lunch together at a local winery before Guy’s jump. However, the thrill-seeker was so nervous he could only manage to nibble a few fries.
When the time came, Guy headed to the airport. Once there, he filled out some paperwork, kitted up and met his experienced tandem partner, Bill. Before the pair headed to the small airplane, Bill went to the rack of available parachutes and selected number 29. Little did he know how much this simple decision would affect both their lives.
Up in the air, Guy’s adrenaline really began to kick in. He gripped hard on to the side of the aircraft as his legs dangled over the side. Bill had started filming for the souvenir DVD. The instructor can be heard joking on the film, asking Guy if he has any last words. “Yeah, I hope my parachute opens,” the young man quips in reply.
The pair count down and then make their leap away from the airplane. Guy found that the first few moments of free fall were euphoric. “It’s just an amazing feeling,” Guy explained on a YouTube video posted in 2017. “There’s just this rush of air and you’re full of adrenaline. It’s amazing.”
However, that feeling wasn’t to last for Guy. As the pair hurtled towards the ground at a speed of about 50mph, it soon became time for Bill to deploy their parachute. Guy was expecting a massive thrust as the canopy opened and put the brakes on their fall. However, he was to be alarmed as no such big upward force arrived.
Confused, Guy looked up towards the parachute. However, all he saw was a few strings and a deflated canopy flapping violently in the wind. Much to the young man’s horror, he realized that the skydiving pair’s main parachute had failed to open properly. Parachute number 29 was doing nothing to slow down the pair’s rapid descent to Earth.
“I start freaking out. I’m terrified,” Guy admitted in the YouTube post, recalling the petrifying moments. “I know that the ground is coming closer and closer. We begin to shake violently. Literally shake out of control like we’re in a washing machine.” He felt himself being shaken lose from his harness, and Bill advised him to try and keep his feet pointed towards the ground to stop this from happening.
The instructor reached above their heads, trying to resolve the issue with the ropes to no avail. Seconds later, Bill managed to deploy the emergency parachute. However, before the reserve could open fully it became tangled in the first ’chute and its ropes. As a result, Guy realized, there was now nothing at all to break the daredevil duo’s fall to the Yarra Valley.
With the pair accelerating faster toward the valley floor, the shaking they experienced grew even more violent. Guy recalled, “We were shaking so much, it was like we were in a blender. We were just spiraling really fast.”As they plummeted, the force wrenched a tightly laced shoe from Guy’s foot. All at once, he realized that there was no question of his fate.
“The first emotion was guilt because I had brought my whole family there,” Guy admitted on the YouTube clip. “We’d made a day out of it. My mum, my dad, my three sisters, their husbands, my nieces and nephews. Everyone had come to watch me. I just remember feeling complete and utter guilt because I had brought them there to watch me die.”
But apart from the enormous guilt Guy felt for his loved ones, he found that he was strangely serene. “I fully accepted death,” he told Vice in July 2017. “There was this weird calm of, ‘Okay, this is happening. It’s going to be the worst pain I’ve ever endured, but once it’s there I’m gonna be dead.’”
Extraordinarily, however, the daredevil cheated death that day. Guy and his instructor crashed down on to a golf course, landing with what must have been a colossal splash in one of the course’s water hazards. “The impact was the worst imaginable pain I could ever fathom,” Guy told Melbourne-based newspaper the Herald Sun in 2014. “And then I was like, ‘I’m on the ground, I’m alive!’”
Incredibly, Bill had survived the impact too. In fact, the instructor took the brunt of the fall with Guy landing on top of him. The pair were sprawled in the water feature, blanketed by the useless parachute number 29. Fortunately, golfer Ash Tainton had witnessed their descent and had called an ambulance. As emergency services arrived on scene, so did Guy’s family. And no-one could believe how he had survived the fall.
Somehow, although he had broken his back, Guy was lucky enough to have survived the fall without life-altering injuries. He was housebound for almost four months and had to wear a neck and back brace. But apart from torn neck ligaments, a few cracked ribs and some cuts and bruises, he got off amazingly lightly. At least, he did so in a physical sense…
Plagued by vivid dreams in which he was haunted by the sensation of falling, Guy eventually opened up about the psychological toll. A year after the fall, he spoke to the Herald Sun about his ordeal. “The physical injuries for me are pretty huge but compared to the mental implications it’s, like, nothing,” he confessed. Therapy revealed he was suffering from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the years passed, Guy’s mental health has improved – although he still experiences post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Now he is keen to support others through their struggles, and provide a positive role model for them. “If you are going through mental health issues, I implore you to open up and speak to someone,” he said on YouTube.
The young man is well aware of how fortunate he has been to physically survive both his amazing accident and the mental fallout. Most of all, though, Guy is keen for everyone to live fulfilled lives. “You never know when something might take you off the radar of life,” he told the Herald Sun. “I always thought I was lucky before, but now I know I am. I’m going to make the most of it.”