NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was meant to be the ultimate birthday thrill — a leap from a plane at 13,000 feet.
Then, the unthinkable happened — a skydive over Long Island turned deadly.
“At about 150 feet, that’s when I knew something was wrong,” Chris Scott told CBS2’s Alex Denis.
It’s a skydiver’s worst nightmare.
“My parachute depressurized,” Scott said.
Within seconds the then-27-year-old instructor Chris Scott, and his tandem jumper Gary Messina, plunged to earth.
“The only reason I’m alive right now, I landed on top of him,” Scott said.
Messina — a corrections officer who turned 26 that day — was killed instantly.
“I remember staring at the ground, and that was it,” Scott said.
When Chris woke up 11 days later, a doctor told him about the accident, and the severity of his injuries which included a broken neck.
Paralyzed from the shoulders down, and bound to a wheelchair, he’s been replaying details of the jump.
“Some days are definitely challenging, some more difficult than others,” Scott said.
He started jumping out of planes when he was 18, and has around 6,000 jumps under his belt.
This time couldn’t have been more different.
“We got hit by what’s called a dust devil,” he said.
As Chris and Gary were descending, a little tornado was rising up to meet them.
“I was a light beam away from death,” he said.
His stepfather Jay Friedman, and his mother Marie Scott are grateful, but overwhelmed.
“There’s no playbook, there’s no website, there’s no one to call who pulls it all together,” Jay said.
At least not that they knew of at the time.
“We went into action mode to develop a concrete plan,” Sheila Kolt explained.
Kolt is with Alliance Homecare, an agency that specializes in helping people transition home after suffering a life altering medical condition.
She organized a team of round the clock healthcare professionals to care for Scott, and modified his apartment so it was accessible to his new needs.
“My most rewarding part of the job is helping people during a crisis, but even more rewarding is helping them to become independent,” she said.
Chris has learned to use his mouth to control a number of things in his apartment from the blinds to the lights and even the TV.
Similar technology allows him to surf the web, even play video games.
Three years after the accident, Chris said he will likely never walk again, but that’s not stopping him from living.
With a little bit of laughter and whole lot of charm, he’s determined to turn his limitations into a whole new world of possibility.
Every week Chris volunteers at the Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Program. He also started a company with some friends that he hopes will help others with spinal cord injuries reconnect with the world.