Skydiving company surprised after worker hit in head by propeller

(WDTN Photo/Chris Smith)

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WDTN) – A skydiving zone employee hit in the head by a spinning plane propeller is in critical condition.

24-year-old Sarah Rhoads is described as someone who is always taking care of everyone else, but that generosity may have contributed to her accident.

Skydiving is exhilarating and exciting, but it’s also an activity that can come with quite a few safety hazards. That’s why every precaution is taken to make sure those jumpers are safe.

What happened on Sunday put Rhoads in critical condition was not predicted by anyone at Start Skydiving in Middletown.

“The plane was sitting in place when it happened,” said Start Skydiving Owner, John Hart.

Rhodes is a Manifest Reservations Manager or Business Manager for Start Skydiving. That job involves lining up airplanes with jumpers and keeping track of how much weight is going up in the air.

2 NEWS asked Ed Scott about the position. He’s with USPA, United States Parachute Association, a safety group affiliated with Start Skydiving.

Scott says it surprises him that Rhoads was so close to the plane.

“Typically the manifester doesn’t go near the airplane,” said Scott

But in this situation she did. Hart tells us he believes Rhoads was getting a food order from the pilot, which is something she usually did. But typically the planes she goes up to have the propeller on the front; this one had them on the wings.

“We can only assume she so used to walking out and talking to the pilot with no props there, that she accidentally made a mistake,” said Hart

USPA said there are no hard and fast rules about who can approach an aircraft but they recommend having a system in place to control who gets near it and when.

Hart said they’re very careful with skydiving customers and have several rules in place to protect them, but he made no mention of rules for employees. That’s something he says they’ll take a look at.

“We’re going to have to asses it and see how something like this could be avoided,” said Hart.

Scott said these accidents are rare but he can see how it can happen.

“Propellers; They are hard to see when they are moving, when they are rotating and even experienced pilots have walked into a moving propeller of an airplane,” said Scott.

Hart said Start Skydiving is like a family and they’re praying Rhoads recovers.

“We love her and we hope our customers that love her too will pray for her.”

The FAA is investigating.
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