Skydive accident survivor addresses Knockagh WI

A woman who survived after falling to earth at 100mph after her parachutes became entangled during a skydive in 1995 addressed the first Knockagh Area WI Spring meeting following a break of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Joanne McConville spoke at the event at Templepatrick Presbyterian Church Hall on April 28.

The Co Antrim woman fell 6,500 feet to earth and lived to tell the tale.

After the President’s report from Margaret Harbison, Home Craft report from Pat Grant, the Federation report from Pamela Robinson, the Magazine and Leisure report from Amy Moore, International report from Margaret Stokes and Institute reports from Carrickfergus and Mossley, Joanne took the stage.

Prize winners on the night; Elizabeth Gray, Pat Grant, Marlene Watt, Deborah Hutchinson, Jennifer Johnston, Hilary Beckett, Roberta Stinson, Pat Duddy, Margaret Harbison and Ruby Erwin.

She said the accident was “the most horrendous” thing that ever happened to her, adding that “she didn’t know if she would live or die”.

On April 1 1995, Joanne was attempting her 65th skydive at the time with her then-boyfriend and instructor Joe. The euphoria that accompanied the whole experience was suddenly cut short when her reserve and main parachute came out at the same time, causing them to become entangled and leaving her with “nothing” above her head.

As she spiralled downwards, her boyfriend tried in vain to save her and could only watch as she hit the ground at over 100 miles an hour.

Amazingly she lived, but lost several teeth in the fall and broke several bones in her face, legs, arms and pelvis.

Not only did Joanne live, but she returned to her career in nursing.

She gives motivational talks about trauma recovery, near death experience, resilience and emotional intelligence. To mark the 27th anniversary of the accident, Joanne has written a book, ‘My Piece of Sky’, about her experience, her recovery and her changing values.

After a break for tea and a chance to view the competition entries, Margaret Harbison, Knockagh Area President congratulated Diana Thompson on her six-year term of office as representative for the Knockagh Area on the Federation of Women’s Institutes Executive giving her a gift from the Area.

Awards were then presented by Mrs Harbison and Pamela Robinson.

A spokesperson for Knockagh WI said: “The area Spring meeting offers members the opportunity to hear about the events of the previous year, both in the area and at Executive level.

“It also provides an opportunity for members to celebrate their talents in baking, crafts and flower arranging. However, these three things are not solely what the WI is all about.

“Many members do none of these things. They enjoy hearing a variety of speakers at their monthly meetings. There are many Institutes that have walking groups.

“There are outings to various venues in Northern Ireland, to the theatre and restaurants. There are also craft and painting workshops.

“The WI is emerging from the pandemic to the ‘new normal’ and is looking for new members. If you feel that it has something to offer you and would like more information, you can find us on Facebook (Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland) or phone 02890601781.”

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