This page is dedicated to the memory of friends that I've lost since I've been skydiving. On the weekend of September 18th, 1999, 5 people were killed at my local DZ (Ags Over Texas) in a plane crash. I was very close with three of them, while I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with the other two girls prior to the accident.
What a great guy. I really don't know what all to say about Mark. Although we attended the same high school, he graduated 4 years before me and I didn't meet him until I started jumping. Ironically, though, I later found out that his sister had turned me down when I asked her out many years ago. I used to joke around about that with Mark all the time. He was only 27 years old when he passed away, the current owner of the DZ Ags Over Texas. Mark put a ton of work into the place, and was extremely supportive of the Texas A&M Skydiving Club. He used to be a competitor with the team when he was an A&M student.
Mark had an electrical engineering degree (same as me), which made me feel as if we had a little bit more in common. He worked for Houston Advanced Research Center, HARC, in the Woodlands where I'm from as well. No person could make you feel more comfortable or relaxed before a skydive than Mark. Some jumpmasters find it fun to try to joke around with students (and don't get me wrong, Mark would do this as well), but Mark had a great way of making you feel like everything was gonna be cool. He was a total professional. Mark dedicated every weekend to his DZ and we all knew that it wasn't something that was making him rich. I think that Mark was so dedicated to the establishment because he knew how much it meant to the club. He was a great guy and I can't say enough cool things about him. Blue Skies Mark!
Crazy ass pilot Rob Puryear has left me so many funny memories it's incredible. I call him crazy because he used to know how to have some serious fun in and out of the airplanes. Rob was flying 'Duct Tape' when she went down with the jumpers. Although the investigation isn't complete, I know that Rob did everything humanly possible to keep that plane from crashing. He cared about the sport of skydiving and the skydivers themselves tremendously. Rob was my favorite pilot and I would never hesitate to get in any plane with the guy. I have total trust in him and the aircraft he was piloting at the time of the crash. I'm so sad I'll never get another ride to altitude in 'Ducky' with Rob at the controls. I also only knew Rob since I started jumping, but I felt really close to the guy. Everyone did. He just had one of those personalities where you couldn't help but like him. When we'd go out to dinner or party, people would always ask if Rob was coming. When he'd show up everyone would greet him with "What's up big daddy?", or something similar. I flew 3 loads with Rob the day of the crash, and the first load I'll remember forever. It was my 100th jump, which of course was done naked. Brett Smith and Kristen Beard accompanied butt naked while Jenny Hajovsky decided to just watch (cheater!). Rob tells Jenny at 3,000 ft. that she better get naked or get out. Didn't work though and Jenny just stuck around to watch, although she pretended that her eyes were closed.
Rob bought me lunch the day he died, and I just remember so many other generous things about him. I was actually jealous of Rob because he had the job I wanted. I had always told him that I wish I had the balls to give up engineering to start flying all the time. I wanted to become a commercial pilot like he was going to be. I know he loved it and although he flew 'Ducky' to build the hours, I know he loved the atmosphere around the DZ. I asked Rob the day that he died whether he like flying or jumping better. He said "What do you think? I've got 800 hrs. flying time and 15 skydives?". I still think he loved the flying as much as anyone could though. He never missed an opportunity to give us a perfect spot over coulter field, and he was always on the ball to open the window immediately when someone farted around 7,000 ft. God Speed Rob!
Now here's a guy that's got more hilarious stories than anyone I know. Ask Mark or Travis Mcham (his cousins), about Jonathan and they can go on for hours about him. Ask about the attack of the killer prairie dog if you really want a laugh. Jonathan had just been married over a year when he passed away. He had a real promising future and was almost done with getting his pilot's license. He had been talking a lot about trying to get into Air Force Flight School, and I don't doubt for a second that Jonathan could have reached his goals. He was my first jumpmaster. I've got a first jump certificate hanging in my room signed by Jonathan. I didn't know him until the night before my first jump. There was a party at Mark McHam's house where I got to meet Mark Woodings and Jonathan for the first time. We spent the whole night talking about jumping the way skydivers like to talk to Wuffos (we all used to be Wuffos). I felt real close to Jonathan immediately, as he also had one of those spectacular personalities. The next morning he made me feel totally at ease when we went up for the first jump. Later on in my static line training, I used to look forward to having Jonathan as a jumpmaster. He had a real talent for noticing if you were doubting yourself at all. He looked at me on one jump and just kept telling me how awesome I was going to do. He didn't say "You're going to do fine", he said "You're gonna do awesome dude".
I spent this summer in Salt Lake City and I really missed all the people back in Texas. When I came back I was really dissapointed because I didn't get to see Jonathan for a week. I looked forward to chatting with him and making him laugh because he had the goofiest laugh I know. And as has been said time and time again, that guy couldn't spot a jump to save his life. It's so fitting that the last student he ever spotted ended up about 2 miles out in the woods. Actually the last time I was with Mark Woodings was jumping through the woods looking for the girl that Jonathan spotted off. He was the honorary lifetime recipient of the Helen Keller spotting award. He knew how to make some stout beer too! Just a great guy and a super talented skydiver. Jonathon loved the sport and everyone loved Jonathan. Blue Skies Jonathan.
These guys were the greatest. You couldn't have put 2 people more passionate about skydiving on a plane than Jonathan and Mark. Rob of course goes without saying. He loved to fly. My deepest sympathy goes out to the two young ladies who lost their lives in the accident. Lela Futch was my fraternity brother's sister. I love that guy and I got to know Lela shortly before the accident. She had worked with Jonathan in the past and he was going to shoot video for her on this jump. It is a terrible loss. I also got to know Sara the week before the accident. She and Carol went out to party with members of the team. Very sweet girl that didn't deserve to lose her life at the age of 18. It's a terrible tragedy. They'll be missed forever.
I had no questions about the abilities of these professionals. For my dad's birthday this year I bought him a tandem. Mark Woodings was his jumpmaster and Rob flew 'Ducky' on that load. Safety was never an issue with these guys. They were on the ball 24/7.
We were very unfortunate at Skydive U in Cedar Valley, Utah on July 17th, 1999. Janet Gaylor was killed in a skydiving accident while jumpmastering an AFF level 1. She was inadvertantly kicked in the face by the student after an extremely hard opening. Janet was saved by her CYPRES, but tragically impacted with a large rock on landing which led to internal bleeding. I didn't know Janet as well as most people we were jumping with that day, but I had spent several days with her at the DZ. She was a great person to be around, super friendly and funny. I'll always remember her trying to sell "Boob Food" to raise money for breast cancer research. She was a great pilot and skydiver and died doing what she loved best.