Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 23, 2013

Man’s skydiving dream turns to nightmare

LOUISVILLE — For 26-year-old David Meek, optimism in the face of adversity is a philosophy he must live by after a skydiving accident has left him debilitated.

“I’ve always heard it has to get worse before it gets better,” Meek said from his bed at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington.

 On Aug. 3, Meek’s daredevil dreams became a reality when he participated in a tandem skydive in Lumberton, Miss.

 The Floyd County man compared the experience to swimming through open water. From three miles high, the world before him was like a puzzle, with the many roads and waterways laying out the pieces.

 This dream quickly dissolved to a nightmare.

 “I remember (my instructor) him pulling the cord and nothing happened,” Meek said referring to his partner who was tied to the same parachute. “I heard him say, ‘Oh, shoot!’ and I asked him what’s wrong but he didn’t say anything. I asked him over and over but he didn’t answer.”

 The parachute had not deployed properly from the pack. Unable to catch any wind, the chute tangled as they continued their descent.

 The instructor, James Horak, Jr., was a veteran Special Forces medic with over 8,000 jumps to his credit. Meek said that Horak frantically attempted to cut the lines of the parachute so they could deploy the emergency chute.

 “The parachute provided some resistance, but we kept falling and spinning so fast,” Meek said. “I just kept praying and praying and praying the whole way down until I blacked out.”

 He woke to find they landed in a swamp. He said the impact left him in a hole three to four feet wide.

 Meek said he was lying on Horak’s legs when he woke up and both men were paralyzed from the waist down.

 According to Meek, Horak passed away from the severity of his injuries one hour after they landed.

 “I was out there four hours, five hours,” Meek said. “I felt like I was starting to go, too. I just prayed to God and said, ‘God, please don’t let this be it, but if it is, take my body into your hands. I don’t want to go anywhere else except to you.’”

 Finally, Meek heard a four-wheeler close by.

 Meek said he cleared his airway as best he could and called out to the rider. The landowner, Patrick Halcomb, was among many searching for the two after they landed away from the planned drop zone.

 “He’s my hero,” Meek said with a smile. “God sent him straight to me. If he had shown up 15 to 30 minutes later than he did, I wouldn’t have made it.”

 Meek was unconscious for two weeks after the accident, occasionally waking for a few minutes at a time.

 His mother, Londa Sue Lafferty, said all he would utter in those moments was, “He’s dead, mommy,” in reference to Horak.  Lafferty rushed from Kentucky to Mississippi to see her son after he had undergone nine hours of surgery on his back, ribs and jaw.

 Meek’s condition continues to improve. Barely a month after the accident, Meek is able to stand with assistance.

 “I’m just meeting God halfway,” he said. “That’s why I do everything double, because I have to meet him halfway.”

 Meek attributes every bit of progress he has to the strength God is giving him right now.

 Even though he is in pain, he is very thankful for the second chance at life.

 “God gives me the pain to not forget He saved me,” Meek said.

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