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BBC Scotland's Eleanor Bradford reports
"The soft ground probably saved his life"
 real 56k

Monday, 9 April, 2001, 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK
Skydiver 'critical' after parachute fails
Skydiving is a sport linked to risk and danger
The father of a skydiver whose parachute failed to open at more than 3,000ft has admitted it was a "miracle" that his son survived.

Craig Paton, 26, from Kilmarnock, is in a critical condition in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after the accident in Perthshire at the weekend.

The accident happened at the weekend when his parachute failed to open correctly as he leapt from a Cessna light aircraft.

He fell to the ground in 60 seconds - a quarter of the time a normal descent should take at that height - hitting the ground at 40mph.

Injured skydiver Craig Paton
Craig Paton: Suffered chest injuries
Craig's father John, 51, said his son only agreed to do the jump at the last minute as a favour to his friends.

Mr Paton said: "Craig only told me on Friday night that one of the lads had dropped out of doing the jump and he said he had agreed to stand in at the last minute.

"I remember saying to him then 'What on earth have you gone and done that for?'

"It's a miracle that he's still alive, but that's the kind of person he is. He's totally unflappable.

'Here I go'

"I don't know enough about what happened or how it happened but that is all part of the inquiry now."

Mr Paton said his son's girlfriend received a text message moments before Craig boarded the plane on Saturday evening.

He said: "His girlfriend got a text message at around seven in the evening as he was about to get on the plane. All it said was 'Here I go'.

"The next thing we knew was when his girlfriend came to our house later on in the evening and told us what had happened."

Mr Paton said police had told him that where Craig landed had probably saved his life.

"The police could not believe that he was still alive when they arrived at the airfield.

Heaven knows why the boy is still here - someone up there must be looking after him

John Paton, father
"Apparently they said when they got to him he was still conscious, saying 'What have I done now?'

"The police said that he had landed on the banking of the road and he actually slid down the bank feet first.

"It seems that that is what saved him because he somehow managed to avoid the road or the fence. It's amazing.

"His grandmother was a parachute packer during the war and she had a few stories to tell about it then.

"Whether one or two bits of advice have washed out on him from her I couldn't say.

"But heaven knows why the boy is still here - someone up there must be looking after him."

Kieran Brady
Kieran Brady was piloting the plane
Mr Paton said his son helps him with his milk business but also runs his own newsagent shop in Kilmarnock.

The group with Craig had been doing the jump for charity, but his son had not because he was a last-minute substitute.

Craig's mother Marion, 53, was at her son's bedside on Monday.

He suffered chest injuries with internal bleeding while doctors said he had possibly cracked several ribs and chipped a bone in his back.

They said he still had movement in his limbs and had been lucky not to have suffered more serious injuries.

Meanwhile, the pilot of plane from which Craig jumped today described him as "an extremely lucky man".

'Critical but stable'

Kieran Brady, chairman of the Sky Divers Strathallan Club, said Craig was lucky not to have been killed during the accident at Strathallan Airfield, near Auchterarder.

"I know that he suffered a parachute malfunction which resulted in him having a partially-opened canopy, the result of which he descended faster than would have been expected."

Investigations into the accident have been launched by Tayside Police and the British Parachute Association.

After the accident Craig was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, but was later transferred to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

A hospital spokeswoman said his condition was critical but stable.

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