Deep Survival with Laurence Gonzales First-Time Skydiver Survives Instructor’s Heart Attack

Text by Contributing Editor Laurence Gonzales, author of the books Everyday Survival and Deep Survival

After deploying the parachute on the first skydive of his life, Danie Pharr, 25, realized that the instructor strapped to his back, George "Chip" Steele, 49, was strangely silent, MSNBC reports. Realizing that Steele was in no condition to get the two to the ground, Pharr took control of the parachute and piloted himself and his instructor to safety, drawing on skills he learned in the United States Army and a bit of know-how picked up from watching television. Once on solid ground, Barr was unable to revive the unconscious Steele, who died of an apparent heart attack.    

I think it's significant that Pharr had had military training—always a good thing to have in your back pocket. But I also think it's important to note the way he framed his situation. He said: "So at that point I realized I was just going to have to do what I had to do to get down to the ground and try to help him." He was trying to survive for someone else, not just to save himself. The best survivors always frame their predicament that way: How can I help someone else? That's true even if you're alone. The famous French aviator, Antoine St.- Exupery was stranded in the desert facing almost certain death, and he had the thought that he had to survive for the sake of his wife. He was worried that his death would be too much for her to take. Needless to say, the Frenchman made it home to her.

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