Parachutist suffered 'catastrophic' injuries after crashing into house and becoming entangled on TV aerial

An army veteran who crashed into the side of a house in East Durham in a horrific parachuting accident was just three jumps away from getting his skydiving licence.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 3:00 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd January 2020, 3:12 pm
Darren Crumpler skydiving

Darren Crumpler smashed into the side of the house in Church View, Shotton Colliery, after taking off from Peterlee’s Skydive Academy on July 14, 2019.

Suspended in the air with his parachute tangled around the TV aerial, the 51-year-old was left seriously injured dangling by his harness around 12ft above the ground.

Great North Air Ambulance Service say Darren’s injuries were ‘catastrophic’. He was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where he stayed for ten weeks.

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Darren Crumpler was suspended from the TV aerial

He said: “My injuries were an open fractured ankle, a shattered heel, a broken femur, an open elbow fracture, a fractured pelvis, a burst bone in my spine, a laceration to the head and three skin grafts.

“One of the skin grafts involved removing muscle and nerves from my wrist and putting it where my elbow was. Now when I touch my elbow, I feel it on my wrist.”

The army veteran had taken up skydiving at Peterlee’s Skydive Academy as a hobby in 2017, after his wife Emma bought him his first experience as a gift.

He said: “She asked me what I wanted for Christmas, so I decided to write a sort of bucket list which had skydiving on it.

Darren Crumpler is treated by paramedics at the scene

“After I had done it, she asked how I found it, thinking I would say horrible, but I said brilliant and took it up as a pastime.”

Just one year later, Darren was Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) level 1 qualified and decided he was going to get his full skydiving license. He was just three jumps away from being fully qualified when the unthinkable happened.

On his second sky dive of the day, Darren, who is from Catterick, hit the side of a house in what the home owner, Alan Stainsby, described as a ‘sickening thud’.

Darren remembers very little about the accident other than excruciating pain.

Darren Crumpler and his wife Emma

Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) paramedic Paul Burnage attended the incident. He said: “We landed in Shotton Primary Schoolyard and we had to jump over the fence to get to him. I remember walking up the drive to him.

“He was up against the gable end wall and was hanging by his harness with his parachute still attached and caught around the TV aerial. It looked like something from a cartoon.”

Darren, who spent 20 years serving in the army, said: “During my first week in hospital I was heavily sedated. I was then flat on my back for three weeks due to my spine injury”.

Unsure of what the future would hold for him following his accident, Darren said he burst into tears when he was told he would walk again.

Darren Crumpler served in the army for 20 years

He said: “When I was able to sit up and dangle my legs off the bed I just burst into tears. Not because of the pain, but because it was so emotional as I honestly didn’t believe I would ever be able to walk again.

“I was so scared as I had no indications of what my abilities would be. Now I just want to push myself and carry on, but I know I need to be patient.”

Although Darren’s recovery is proving to be a slow process, nothing has stood in the way of him spreading the word about the work of GNAAS whenever he can.

He said: “I have absolutely no words for what I think about GNAAS. I am unbelievably grateful. What you do is extraordinary. My wife and I tell everyone about you.”