A SKYDIVER has miraculously cheated death after plunging 13,000 feet in a horrific accident.
Liam Dunne’s parachute opened at the last moment, too late to prevent him slamming into the ground at high speed.
Mr Dunne, married with two children, was treated at the scene by medics and taken to a specialist spinal unit.
The 35-year-old, who grew up in St Annes before emigrating to New Zealand, has undergone surgery for a broken bone in his back and has astonished doctors with his recovery.
Mr Dunne said: “It is early days so I am trying to focus on the positives. Chances are I am going to walk again. The fact I am alive is what I need to hold on to.”
Mr Dunne, a former pupil at Our Lady’s Star of the Sea on Kenilworth Road, St Annes and Arnold School, South Shore, moved abroad several years ago with his wife Sally.
An experienced skydiver who runs a skydiving jumpsuit and equipment company, Mr Dunne jumped from a plane at a festival in Motueko on New Zealand’s south island.
According to reports, Mr Dunne’s parachute failed to open. A reserve chute opened automatically when he was just 750 feet above the ground.
A witness described how Mr Dunne “hit the ground hard” and bounced several times. It is understood he landed on soft, waterlogged ground, which probably saved his life.
Mr Dunne was airlifted to a nearby hospital suffering multiple injuries and was subsequently transferred to Christchurch Hospital, which has the resources to tackle more serious injuries His parents, Jim and Lesley – who lived on Balmoral Avenue, St Annes for 30 years before recently moving to Ireland – have flown to New Zealand to be at their son’s bedside.
Mr Dunne’s father is well known in Blackpool – he was Clinical Director of Ophthalmology at Victoria Hospital, and was also a prominent member of St Annes Rotary Club.
Neighbours in Balmoral Avenue, where Mr Dunne grew up with his brother Anthony and sister Nicola, were shocked to hear what had happened.
One resident, who did not wished to be named, said: “They are just a lovely family and Liam was a smashing lad.
“He spent his childhood here but there was never any issues with him and it is terrible to hear what has happened. But it could have been worse so you have to be thankful for small mercies.”
Mr Dunne’s condition has improved since the accident happened two weeks ago but he is expected to be in rehab for a lengthy period.
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Dunne added: “The hardest part is a horrible feeling of utter dependence.
“But I am totally and utterly blown away by all the messages of love and support.”
The New Zealand Parachute Industry Association has launched an investigation into the accident, which will focus on the equipment used by Mr Dunne.