May 29, 2012 at 9:14 AM ET
For her 80th birthday, Laverne Everett fulfilled a long-time wish and went skydiving. It nearly became the final item on her bucket list.
Everett, now 81, almost slipped completely out of her harness during a tandem jump last May at the Parachute Center in Lodi, Calif. A year after her frightening fall to earth, the video of her jump has gone viral. The clip shows a hesitant Everett getting a nudge off the side of the plane by the instructor, then slipping out of her harness as her partner clings to her tightly.
Dangling facedown, her own clothes obstructed her view. Her partner guided them safely away from the asphalt below, and they landed on a grassy spot. Everett escaped with just a few bruises and scrapes. It wasn’t until she saw the video afterward that she realized the degree of peril she faced, but she remains undaunted.
“It didn’t really scare me,’’ she told Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday.
The same could not be said for Everett’s sister, Jimmie Campora, who appeared alongside Everett on Tuesday. Campora was watching from the ground as the whole scene unfolded.
“I thought, ‘This was it,’’’ Campora told Lauer. “I was freaking out. My daughter said she’s never seen me like that.”
Everett recalled the harness slipping down to her left shoulder, but said that neither she nor her partner screamed. The videographer parachuting alongside tried to help, but there was nothing he could do as the instructor held on to Everett for dear life.
“That’s about I guess all I wanted to know,’’ she said. “He’s telling me to hang on.’’
“It scared me,’’ Campora said. “And I know something’s wrong because she’s coming down slower.’’
In the video, Everett looks hesitant, with her knees buckling right before the instructor nudges her off the edge of the plane before the jump.
“He gave me a little boost with his feet,’’ Everett told NBC News. “I needed that. He knew how bad I wanted to do it.’’
The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the incident. At least eight people have died at the Parachute Center in the last 10 years, including one in April, according to a report by CBS Sacramento. In 2010, 21 fatal skydiving accidents occurred in the United States, according to the United States Parachute Association, compared to 16 in 2009.
“No one got injured and the landing was fine,’’ Parachute Center owner Bill Dause told NBC News.
“I’m not sorry I did it,’’ Everett told NBC News. She has been more overwhelmed by her online fame than by nearly coming unharnessed from a parachute in mid-air.
“I’m in shock,’’ she said as Lauer told her more than 500,000 people have watched her video.
The incident has not deterred her daredevil ways: Next up, she might take a spin in a race car.
“I’m considering it,’’ she said, giggling. “There’s a chance.’’
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