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Sandpoint man suffers spinal injuries following skydiving accident

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | June 12, 2024 1:00 AM

A Sandpoint man is seeking the community’s help after breaking multiple vertebrae in his back during a Memorial Day skydiving event.

Local Tim Smith was participating in a flag jump in Washington State on May 27 to honor those who gave their lives for the U.S. when an accident left him with multiple fractures in his back. 

“Basically, I lost grip of my left toggle just before landing, after hand flying a 15-pound sandbag and flag in tow, that became disconnected from its container,” Smith said in a social media update. “This was my mistake. Reattaching the weight to me likely would have been a better outcome.”

Smith said that he ended up prioritizing wanting to complete the flag jump to honor the fallen rather than prioritizing his safety, which is where things went wrong.

“On base to final, the left toggle [slipped] out of my grip, and my thumb was failing to carry the extra load from the flag and I was unable [to] recapture my left toggle on short final,” he said. “This resulted in an asymmetric landing on a zero wind day that was hard.”

While the landing itself did not seem catastrophic, Smith said he hit the ground with too much speed when he landed. After catching his breath, Smith said he was able to walk off the field with some help and initially thought he was all right. However, it ended up that he had a burst fracture on his T-12 vertebrae, a spinal hematoma, a sprained thumb, and multiple bone fragments causing issues on other parts of his spinal column.

After undergoing surgery, Smith has already returned home, which he said he was surprised he was able to do so quickly.

“Things could have been worse, but … they could have been better,” he said. “This will be really tough but I will make a full recovery.”

Smith said he plans to post a video in the near future detailing what happened in the accident, “in the interest of safety and learning.”

“I have plenty of time to heal and to reflect on the malfunction,” he said. “This will be a long road of healing, but we are already walking down it.”

A GoFundMe page has been created to help Smith cover the cost of his medical bills as he undergoes surgeries for his spine as well as spends time in recovery.

In a June 4 update by Kristine Rae, the fundraiser’s organizer, she said that Smith has been spending his time at home seeing friends and family as well as working on mobility.

“He's been able to get in and out of bed on his own now — that was actually harder than walking — and walking out to the mailbox, slowly increasing the distance each day,” she said. “Showers are tricky because he can't wear his brace, but he has managed a couple of those as well.”

Visit bit.ly/3RmDxOb to donate to Smith’s GoFundMe page.