DURHAM Aerial Adventures hopes to get another chance to deliver the game ball at North Carolina this season.
And if they do, the parachutists promise to hit the correct stadium.
Matthew Fitch, president of the Virginia-based company and a professional skydiver, said Saturday's accidental leap into Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium – instead of UNC's Kenan Stadium, which is about 8 miles away – marks the only time in eight years that Aerial Adventures has missed its mark.
“When I first opened the parachute … I said, ‘uh-uh.'” said Fitch, whose client list also includes Virginia, LSU and the Atlanta Braves. “At that point, I knew … and there was no turning back.”
Fitch said he and his crew were running a bit late because of the weather, but he and his fellow skydiver didn't know they were stepping out above the wrong stadium because, as part of their usual safety procedure, they were busy re-checking each other's gear for at least five minutes prior to exiting the plane. (Both are experienced; Fitch has made 4,000 jumps, and his colleague has made more than 13,000.)
The pilot has a GPS system, and is responsible for telling the divers when to go.
But the company was using a new pilot, Fitch said, and as of Tuesday morning, he still hadn't been able to talk to him about what went wrong.
But because of the types of parachutes the company uses, “no one was ever in danger,” Fitch added, even though the Blue Devils and James Madison were going through warm-ups on the field.
He has apologized to UNC, and was trying to reach Duke officials to express his regret.
“I thought it was part of our show,” Blue Devils running back Clifford Harris said Tuesday, grinning at the incident. “I was glad they came.”
Fitch said he, too, might eventually find the incident funny – but likely only if he gets another chance to land in Kenan.
“I'd like to see the Ram down there on the field, guiding us in with lights,'' he said.
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