‘Tragic incident’ while indoor skydiving paralyzed an Illinois man, lawsuit says

An Illinois man was skydiving in an indoor wind tunnel when he said he crashed headfirst into a wall.

Crashing into the glass caused a spinal cord injury that rendered him a quadriplegic, he said. The 63-year-old man now “requires constant, round-the-clock care.”

David Schilling, of Palos Park, is suing iFLY and related entities in the Circuit Court of Cook County. He said the workers failed to keep him safe.

His attorneys with Clifford Law Offices filed an amended complaint on Monday, Oct. 10 — alleging negligence, and willful and wanton conduct. The lawsuit also accuses iFLY of fraudulent misrepresentation when calling its activity “very safe.”

In a statement to McClatchy News, an iFly spokesperson said the company has been in operation for more than 20 years, has had over 15 million customers safely fly and “will continue to make the safety of all of its customers its highest priority.”

“iFLY has great empathy for Mr. Schilling and his family,” the spokesperson said. “At the time, Mr. Schilling was a very experienced, licensed skydiver with the United States Parachute Association with over 80 jumps who was receiving instruction in the iFLY wind tunnel from another experienced skydiver from Skydive Chicago at their private event for experienced skydivers.”

In a statement provided by Schilling’s attorneys, he said he went to the indoor skydiving facility in Rosemont thinking it would be a fun, safe experience.

But while in the wind tunnel on Jan. 21, 2021, he said he became unstable as the instructor failed to help him.

“Had I known that an instructor would not have assisted me, I of course would have never participated, and my life clearly would be different today,” Schilling said.

He is paralyzed and unable to move his body from his neck down following the “tragic incident,” according to a statement from Clifford Law Offices.

In the amended complaint, attorneys accused the Skygroup corporation of failing to have a worker “spot” Schilling right beside him — and instead had a “spotter” near the door.

The location either knew or should have known Schilling was “out of control” and in need of help prior to him crashing, according to the lawsuit. Schilling did not have an “impact rated” helmet, and the instructors were not properly trained, the plaintiff’s attorneys alleged.

“As a direct and proximate result of one or more of the acts and/or omissions, (Schilling) sustained permanent and forever injuries of a personal and pecuniary nature,” the lawsuit states.

At the time of Schilling’s incident, the iFLY website said “indoor skydiving is one of the most exciting experiences you’ll have in your life. It’s also a very safe activity,” according to the lawsuit. It indicated that anyone ages 3 to 103 could safely fly.

But the corporation also had an “iFLY Release of Liability and Indemnity Agreement” that called iFLY activities “inherently dangerous,” attorneys said. The liability release said participants are at risk of serious injury and death.

“iFLY should not market this activity on its own website as very safe and for children as young as three years old, but then knowingly maintain legal documents that call iFLY indoor skydiving an inherently dangerous activity,” attorney Jack Casciato said in a statement.

Schilling said he hopes to bring awareness to the dangerous situation.

“iFLY facilities should close until the company makes it apparent to people, people such as parents that plan on hosting a children’s birthday party, that iFLY in fact does not consider this a safe activity but instead one that is inherently dangerous,” he said.

He also seeks a jury trial and more than $50,000 in damages.

Rosemont and Palos Park are in the Chicago metropolitan area.

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