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A Skydiving Instructor Takes the Fall for His Student

For her 54th birthday, Shirley Dygert of Teague, Texas, decided she needed some more excitement in her life. So this grandmother of three signed up for her first lesson to leap out of a plane from roughly thirteen-thousand feet.

When the big day arrived, Shirley suited up for her jump and strapped herself to her instructor, Dave Hartsock, in order to do a tandem dive. After jumping from the plane, instructor and student pulled the rip cord. The rip cord worked properly, but the parachute became tangled and only opened partially. Of course skydivers also carry a reserve parachute for such emergencies. Unfortunately, the primary parachute had wrapped itself around the release point for the reserve parachute. As Dave Hartsock tried to untangle the two parachutes, he realized they were running out of time. Later, Shirley Dygert said, "I thought … . this is how I'm going to die. I thought, God help us."

Spiraling toward the ground at a 40 mph, Hartsock gave Shirley a strange command: Lift up your feet. Although she didn't understand the request, she obeyed her instructor. Hartsock then rotated his body under hers in order to bear the impact of their landing. Dave Hartsock was going to be Shirley Dygert's cushion. "I could hardly believe it," Dygert said. "He broke my fall."

Shirley Dygert walked away from the impact relatively uninjured. Dave Hartsock survived the fall, but now, except for some movement in his right arm, he's paralyzed from the neck down. In an interview, Hartsock told CBS News, "People keep telling me that it was a heroic thing to do. In my opinion it was just the right thing to do. I mean, I was the one completely responsible for her safety."

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