Lodi, CA — A Manteca man is lucky to be alive after surviving what aviation experts are calling both a miracle and a freak accident. An expert skydiver, Kent Clostomy, has made over 3000 jumps from his home base of Lodi, CA. Mr. Clostomy is the co-owner of the mal-named skydiving company Deep Impact and decided to make a high jump from close to 20,000 feet over the California Central Valley.
“Kent is the best there is,” said his partner at Deep Impact Carol Dons, also an expert skydiver and the company’s lead instructor. “So when he came in and told me he was going to make what we call a big jump, I didn’t think much about. I was kinda jealous, to be honest.”
The jump started like any other. Mr. Clostomy boarded his company’s twin-engine Cessna “Old Betsky” piloted by long-time Deep Impact employee Steven “Mad Dog” Snarls. The pair boarded aircraft at 9:07 am and proceeded to ascend to the drop altitude.
“Kent is a daredevil, there’s no doubt about that,” said Mr. Snarls. “He wanted me to take it even higher than 20K, but I told him, like I always do, that the FAA will be on our ass if we screw around like that. So I lifted him to 19,256 feet, and he jumped. And I saw the whole damn thing happen.”
Little did either man know that approximately 42 miles away, United Airlines flight 420 had just left San Francisco International Airport on its way towards Salt Lake City. The airplane was climbing to 13,000 feet when the Boeing 737-800 had an unplanned rendezvous with Mr. Clostomy, who was busy screaming his favorite Van Halen song and failed to notice the airplane approaching him at over 300mph to the west.
“Every time I jump, I put on Hot For Teacher, and then if I have time, I might switch to some ‘Zeppelin,” said an overly tanned and highly enthusiastic Kent recalling his jump. “So I was up there, doing my air drum thing, then wham. The next thing I know, my rig is caught up in the nose of this plane. And I couldn’t get myself free.”
According to pilot Snarls, he was circling back to the Lodi airfield when he says Kent got “snatched up.”
“You have to understand these jets are going fast, and it just came out of nowhere. It just hooked him like a bass in the Delta and poof, and he was gone. I radioed down to Carol, but she thought I was joking. Eventually, she figured it out and got on the horn with the FAA or whatever.”
Recalling his ordeal, Mr. Clostomy seemed unaffected by his unexpected hitchhike on a 737.
“It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on,” continued Mr. Clostomy. “I’m not too sure, but it was a minute or so. I was caught up underneath the fuselage, you know? I mean, going that fast meant I was pinned up under the plane. I tried banging on the plane. Nothing worked. Finally, I cut myself free and started falling.”
It was at that point that Kent was somewhere over Eastern Nevada, near Elko, at approximately 25,000 feet.
“It was a bit disorienting at first, but I cured that by cranking up my Van Halen. The reserve [parachute] opened around 8,000 feet, and I coasted into Round Table [Pizza] parking lot out there in Elko. Here’s the thing. No one even noticed. So, I just took off my gear and went in and had a pepperoni pizza and a coke.”
After finishing up his pizza, Mr. Clostomy called Carol and told her he was okay. According to the Deep Impact team, Flight 420 had no idea that they had an additional, unticketed passenger until they arrived in Salt Lake City. The FAA is reviewing its flight plans for the aircraft in the area and is considering limiting skydiving until a new policy is in place.