Three skydivers injured before race

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Three Army skydivers were injured Sunday when strong wind knocked them to the ground before a NASCAR race.

Two jumpers were in stable condition at a hospital and the other was in good condition.

A group of eight jumpers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute team from Fort Bragg came sailing into the track area, trailing red smoke as part of the pre-race activities for the Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway.

With wind up to 40 mph, one jumper was carried away from his targeted landing on the track and into the infield, where he appeared to bounce off the top of a tractor-trailer before landing on the ground, his chute caught on the antenna of a van.

He was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he was in good condition, a nursing administrator said.

The hospital did not provide the soldier's name. Messages for spokesmen with the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg were not immediately returned.

Another jumper sailed into the garage area and bounced off the top of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s hauler. He landed between race team trucks and a fence.

That jumper and another jumper who landed hard on the asphalt of the track were taken to Womack Army Hospital in Fayetteville for treatment of minor injuries. They were in stable condition Sunday evening, said Barbara Ashley, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

The injured soldiers' names have not been released.

At least two jumpers nailed their landings on the front stretch of the race track. Another skydiver never made it to the track, landing outside the Turn 1 grandstands.

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