Veteran skydiver hurt in NJ jump; hit ground at estimated 70 mph

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Josh Einiger reports from Morristown. (WABC)

A veteran skydiver in New Jersey was seriously hurt Thursday in an accident in Sussex County.

It happened in Wantage Township.

He's so experienced at skydiving Paul Hayes recently posted a video on Vimeo after his 700th dive.

He's so proud of his exploits; he shows them off on his Facebook profile picture.

But Thursday, the 38-year-old thrill seeker made a nearly fatal mistake, and came in too fast at the Sussex Airport.

"It looked like he hit the ground pretty hard," said Curt Kellinger, the owner of Sussex Skydive.

Kellinger was in the air right behind Hayes after they jumped.

He landed to find Hayes unconscious after a jump he said looked normal, until the very end.

"It was pretty uneventful, freefall deployment. Parachute was open, fully functional and flying, and the last thousands feet he initiated a hard turn and didn't recover before he struck the ground," Kellinger said.

Paramedics airlifted Hayes to the nearest trauma center, as state troopers arrived to figure out what went wrong.

"To see something like that, it gets real pretty quick," Kellinger said.

In a statement, the owner of Skydive Sussex said:
"We regret to announce that one of our experienced skydivers was injured today, while initiating a high speed turn to land his fully functional parachute. Skydive Sussex and staff send our heartfelt prayers to his family and friends for a full recovery."

State troopers collected a lot of evidence at the scene, including the GoPro camera Hayes was wearing on his head during the jump. It's all now been turned over to the FAA, as it begins its investigation.

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accidentskydivernew jersey newsNew Jersey
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