Most Cal Poly home football games start with the flying of the American flag into the center of the field by a parachutist. However, on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the game against University of Montana, a windy mishap sent the parachute crashing into Student Services (building 124) instead.
Cal Poly staff confirmed the parachutist was not injured in the accident.
Cal Poly Director of Marketing and Fan Experience Jennifer Chow said protocol requires that the parachutist check-in before the game and have a spotter communicate with event staff before and during the jump.
The spotter also determines whether it is too windy for the parachutist to jump.
The spotter and parachutist were torn on the decision to jump due to the conditions, but Chow said it is clear now that it was too windy to make it to the field.
Political science freshman Austin McLellan, an avid home game attendee, witnessed the crash. He described the parachutist’s flight two weeks ago against Brown as spectacular and graceful.
“On Saturday [at the Montana game], my eyes were to the sky waiting for him to come down, and when I initially saw him descending, I was excited to see it happen again,” McLellan said. “Well, I noticed his descent wasn’t like the one at the Brown game and I immediately assumed it was because of the wind.”
Software engineering senior Steven Bradley was working as event staff, scanning tickets at the Campus Avenue entrance of Alex G. Spanos Stadium when he saw the crash.
“I looked over and saw the parachutist and thought to myself, ‘There’s no way that he’s gonna make it to the field.’ He was way lower than he normally is,” Bradley said.
Bradley said he saw the parachutist trying to change his flight path when part of the parachute hit a tree next to Student Services, causing the man to crash into the building.
According to Chow, the parachutist veered into the building to avoid injuring others with the heavy, weighted parachute.
Industrial engineering senior and Cal Poly Marching Band member Caroline Hodes saw fans, the University Police Department, and the marching band paramedic run to help the parachutist.
The game continued on schedule while the parachutist was tended to by paramedics.
“It was scary watching [the parachutist crash] because I’ve never seen something like that happen before,” Hodes said. “People were really worried.”
The marching band paramedic confirmed that the parachutist was alright, according to Hodes.
Chow said she does not think this incident will keep the parachute tradition from continuing at Cal Poly home football games.