Skydiving Accident Victim Finds Peace After 3,500 Feet
By Angela Smith-Dice, KitsapSun.com, September 10, 2005
SEABECK — As Levi Cave crawled out on the wing of a plane at 3,500 feet, he briefly thought that it was dumb idea.
But he had faith.
After a day of lessons taught by a man who had jumped numerous times and videos with ecstatic post-jump testimonials, he thought, “It’s going to work.”
For the 26-year-old just-starting mountain climber, skydiving had just seemed like the next logical thing to do. So he, his brother and friends planned the trip, though Cave hadn’t decided until that morning.
Around 6 p.m., they were ready for their jump, a static jump in which the parachute is supposed to automatically open when a person leaves the plane. They were warned that in case of emergency, they needed to open their reserve chute before 2,000 feet.
Cave was the last one out.
He was supposed to land in a cleared swath of land near the Olympic Industrial Park, across Highway 3 from the Bremerton National Airport.
As he fell he started spinning. He waited, going with the spin as he was taught and he assumed it would work itself out.
When the spinning didn’t stop, he realized something was wrong.
He started screaming.
But in the air, thousands of feet up, there’s nobody there.
He kept thinking the chute would fix itself.
He grabbed at the ropes.
When that didn’t do anything, he thought he was going to die.
It was nearly a four-minute fall. That’s a lot of time to think about things.
Wife, Machele; sons Pierce, 6, and Trace, 2.
He remembered a phrase from Romans 10:13: “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
He started repenting. He repented for everyone.
Then he started drifting toward the Bremerton airport, toward hangars, construction equipment and a razor-wire fence.
He prayed again.
Before he hit the ground, what felt like big arms wrapped around him and he felt a sense of peace.
“If you could imagine every good thing in the world and things you haven’t experienced yet. … I was totally engulfed in that,” he said, though he was afraid a description cheapened it.
“It was so real. The communication was so real to me, you just don’t discredit it,” he said.
He landed between two hangars, within feet of the fence and storage container and his head fell 8 inches from the bucket of a backhoe.
That was Aug. 6.
This is the tale Levi Cave recounted as he sat in a lawn chair outside his Seabeck home. What he didn’t remember, others have told him.
He remembered broken scenes from his rescue.
He remembered wondering why no one had found him soon after the fall — his chute had slid out of sight — and of trying to thank the paramedics through a broken jaw.
His right femur had broken and gone through the skin, his head was cut, his liver lacerated.
On the helicopter ride to Harborview Medical Center, Cave remembered thinking, “I didn’t have insurance.”
Cave works in construction as a framer.
He spent four days in the intensive-care unit, and a week more recovering with his wife nearby every day.
Eventually, his worry about money subsided.
“If I’m here, it’ll work out.”
Before the accident, Cave had been going through a sort of crisis.
Though he has always been involved in the church, he’d had a lot of questions in the past few years,
“I just felt like something wasn’t vibrant enough for me,” he said.
Though he wasn’t moving away from the church, he had a lot of questions. He had been turned off by cliquish congregations with backstabbing members.
When he moved to Kitsap, he found a church that encouraged his questions and made him feel welcome.
When Cave returned home, he told a Sunday congregation of the accident.
Members of New Life Church started helping him out, asking him what he needed. Members bring his family dinners once a week.
“That’s what the church is all about,” said lead pastor Wes Davis. “It’s about people caring about each other, supporting each other and loving each other.”
Other people in Seabeck have also heard the tale. Cave’s neighbor/landlord and assistant pastor at Faith Fellowship set up a trust fund at Bank of America to be distributed by the church.
Today, four churches will host a dessert auction to help pay for living costs and what is expected to be between $80,000 and $100,000 in medical bills.
“There’s probably several lessons” from the accident, Davis said.
God’s peace is often found when life’s trials are toughest, he said.
“God’s peace is knowing that either way it works out,” Davis said.
Several Seabeck-area churches hosted a benefit dessert auction at 7 pm on the day of this news article. Thrivent Financial matched all proceeds to cover medical and household expenses.