An Illinois man is suing indoor skydiving company iFly after sustaining an injury at one of their locations that left him a quadriplegic.
David Schilling, 63, was visiting an iFly location in Rosemont, Illinois, in January when he spun out of control in the wind tunnel and hit the glass wall at a 45 degree angle, ABC 7 reported. The head-on impact resulted in a “severe” spinal cord injury that left Schilling, an Air Force veteran, paralyzed from the neck down, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“It was very clear that he was in distress. He was out of control. He’s not maintaining altitude. He’s drifting. He’s spinning. He’s falling down to the net,” said Schilling’s lawyer, Jack Casciato, according to ABC 7. Lawyers also maintain that the instructors assigned to Schilling were not properly certified, knew the wind tunnel speed was too strong and “acted with an utter indifference and conscious disregard” for Schilling’s safety. (RELATED: Teenager And Skydiving Instructor Reportedly Fell To Their Deaths After Both Parachutes Failed)
“Had I known that an instructor would not have assisted me, I of course would have never participated, and my life clearly would be different today,” the man said. https://t.co/bNW202e30q
— The Kansas City Star (@KCStar) October 12, 2022
“This doesn’t happen within a second. David is in the wind tunnel for some time. Another participant he’s in there with is trying to help him. But that responsibility doesn’t go to another paying customer,” Casciato argued, according to ABC 7.
Marketing for iFly presents the indoor skydiving it offers as a family activity that offers the “next level fun for everyone,” but participants must sign a waiver that expressly describes the experience as “inherently dangerous” with risks that include serious injury or death, according to ABC 7. Casciato argued that pitching the activity as safe and family friendly is a direct contradiction in their marketing strategy, amending the negligence lawsuit to also reflect what he deems to be “fraudulent representation” on the part of iFly, per the Sun-Times.
“iFly asks people to host children’s birthday parties, they tell parents it’s safe for 3-year-olds and then when somebody gets hurt, they switch gears and say it’s unsafe, so we believe that’s fraudulent,” Casciato explained, according to the Sun-Times.
In an e-mailed statement about the case, iFly maintained that customer safety was a top priority and that in their 20 years of operation they have had safe flights with over 15 million participants. In response to Schilling, iFly argued that “[Schilling] was a very experienced, licensed skydiver with the United States Parachute Association with over 80 jumps who was receiving instruction in the iFly wind tunnel from another experienced skydiver from Skydive Chicago at their private event for experienced skydivers,” as reported by the Sun-Times.
Though Schilling signed the iFly waiver that outlined the risks of the activity and absolved the company of responsibility for injury, including any “alleged negligence” on the part of the company, a judge has denied a motion by iFly to dismiss the case based on that argument, according to ABC 7. The case is set to go to trial in Oct. 2023.