Gravely-injured skydiver saved by "ripcord" in surgery

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Iwan van der Schoor is a skydiving photographer who often has several cameras strapped to his body to capture photos and videos of others as they fall.

On the Fourth of July he recorded two friends jumping over a lake near Sacramento. Van der Schoor landed safely in the water as planned. But a second jump didn't go as planned.

"I knew I was going way too fast, hitting the water maybe 40, 50 miles per hour is not quite a brick wall. But it's pretty close," said van der Schoor.

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Skydiver Iwan van der Schoor is taken to an ambulance after crashing into water on the Fourth of July
Iwan van der Schoor

Van der Schoor was rescued as his chest filled with blood from a tear in his aorta -- the main blood vessel out of the heart that carries all the blood.

Dr. David Dawson, a vascular surgeon, was ready at the University of California Davis Medical Center when van der Schoor was rushed in -- his life on the line.

"We know from historical data that about half the people who have an injury like this are dead within 24 hours," said Dr. Dawson.

But medical advances have changed those odds dramatically. Dr. Dawson uses a repair device for aortic injury that came on the market just three years ago.

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The "ripcord" used in the cutting-edge surgery to save Iwan van der Schoor
CBS News

Through a tiny incision in the patient's groin, a wire is threaded along blood vessels to the damaged aorta where the ruptured portion will be sealed off by pulling a rip cord. The procedure saved van der Schoor's life.

He says he'll "most likely" jump again. Perhaps surprisingly his wife Sandra, seven months pregnant, won't stop him.

"He's good at that," she said.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.