CHICAGO » Two parachutists were seriously injured Saturday during the Chicago Air & Water Show after colliding midair while performing a stunt, a parachute team spokeswoman said. Witnesses say at least one of the men clipped the top of a high-rise apartment building before falling to the ground in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
The two men were taken in serious-to-critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Saturday morning, Fire Department spokesman Juan Hernandez said.
The Army Golden Knights and Navy Leap Frogs parachute teams were performing a stunt known as a "bomb burst," Golden Knights spokeswoman Donna Dixon told WMAQ-TV. During the stunt, parachutists fall with red smoke trailing from packs and then separate, creating a colorful visual in the sky.
Dixon said the men collided during the stunt. She said one man, a member of the Golden Knights for about four years who’s in his late 20s, underwent surgery and was in critical condition.
The other man is a member of the Navy Leap Frogs. Dixon said he broke his leg and was expected to be released Saturday.
Witnesses told first responders that at least one of the parachutists hit a building in the upscale lakefront district, but the Fire Department had not confirmed the accounts.
Spectator Heather Mendenhall told the Chicago Tribune she was watching the show from a rooftop and saw one of the parachutists strike the roof next door with his feet and fall, with his parachute trailing behind him.
"His legs caught the tip of the roof, and then he fell over. It was horrible," she told the newspaper.
She said he looked unconscious as he hit the roof. A maintenance worker on the same roof called paramedics, she said.
"If he was only one foot closer to the roof, the maintenance guy could’ve grabbed him," Mendenhall said.
The other parachutist was found on North Avenue Beach, near the main viewing area for the show, Hernandez said.
He had no other details on the nature of the injuries or what went wrong.
The annual two-day air show draws millions of people to Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline. Headliners include the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Representatives for the Army and Navy parachute teams did not respond to email and voicemail messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Members of the Navy team are active-duty personnel drawn from forces including the Navy SEALs. Specialists such as the Army and Navy jumpers can reach speeds of up to 180 mph during freefall by pulling their arms to their sides. They typically open their parachutes at around 5,000 feet, joining their canopies together in formation and setting off smoke grenades to send red smoke trailing behind them.