By Charmain BrackettApril 30, 2009
FORT GORDON, Ga.--(April 30, 2009) After a harrowing January skydiving experience, Pfc. Daniel Pharr of Fort Gordon's 297th Military Intelligence Battalion took to the skies once again, but this time, his guides were the Army's Golden Knights.
"They are the best of the best," said Pharr, who had his 15 minutes of fame after a Jan. 30 tandem skydive in which his instructor, George "Chip" Steele, died. Local and national media outlets turned their attention to the initial story. He received more than 300 cell phone calls in the days following the incident.
Pharr landed the parachute safely, despite being able to grab only one of the control toggles. He tried to resuscitate Steele when they landed, but it was too late.
The Golden Knights, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., heard about Pharr's experience in Chester, S.C. and contacted him about the jump.
Although Pharr was able to keep his cool during the jump with Steele, he realizes how fortunate he was.
"There are too many variables; a lot could have gone wrong," he said.
With two months to think about what could have gone wrong, Pharr said he was a little apprehensive about making another jump despite the Golden Knights' reputation and expertise.
Pharr said his parents were for the jump, but his wife, Jessica, who gave him the initial jump as a Christmas gift, didn't want him to jump with the Golden Knights.
Pharr and Sgt. Adam Palmisano, 297th MI Bn. got lost on the April 21 drive to Fort Bragg, N.C. and for a brief time considered using it as an excuse not to follow through.
Spending an hour in a pre-jump class helped calm some, but not all, of their nerves.
As he and jump partner, Sgt. Joe Abeln, of the Golden Knights, exited the plane, Pharr said he was nervous.
Steele lost consciousness not long after pulling the cord on the parachute.
Pharr said the photographer, who documented the Golden Knights' jump, kept him distracted during the free fall. And Abeln tried to keep Pharr's nerves at bay.
"I told him to keep talking to me," said Pharr who realized something was wrong in his January jump when Steele stopped talking.
Pharr said he's glad he made the second jump, but he doesn't think he'll try for Airborne school or use those free jumps at the school in Chester where Steele worked.
"If the Golden Knights said 'Do you want to go again'' I would think about it," he said.
(Editor's note: The Golden Knights will be among the military units performing during the Thunder Over Augusta military salute downtown Augusta on May 16.)