Ft. Gordon soldier gets tandem jump with Golden Knights in NC

MAXTON, N.C. - Pfc. Daniel Pharr decided he'd tempt fate just once more to honor the parachute instructor who was tethered to him and died as the pair floated toward the ground a couple of months ago.

However, his first sky-high leap since the accident will also be his last, he said.

"I'm definitely never doing it again," the 25-year-old soldier said. "Not because I'm scared, but my wife. She just expressed a need not to test fate again."

Pharr's jump Tuesday with the elite U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team went smoothly in Maxton, about 10 miles northeast of the South Carolina state line.

It was his first attempt since January, when the soldier from Fort Gordon, Ga., jumped for the initial time with a commercial skydiving company in Chester, S.C. The jump was a Christmas present from his wife, Jessica.

But as Pharr and veteran jumper George Steele floated down, Steele suffered a pulmonary embolism and died. The condition occurs when an artery in a lung is blocked, often by a blood clot.

Pharr - who later said television and his military training helped him know to pull the toggles on the already-deployed parachute to steer - guided the chute safely to the ground and tried to resuscitate Steele. But Steele, 49, was already dead.

Pharr, a member of the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, said he tried not to overanalyze the jump.

"Going up, my general nervousness went up," he said. "But once we jumped and went through the free fall ... it was a much more fun and enjoyable experience."

Operations Officer Capt. Michael Funderburk said the Golden Knights had invited Pharr and several men in his unit to jump to help him gain confidence. Pharr recalled the training before the jump and the team's general understanding of the situation.

"They just went above and beyond to make me feel more comfortable," he said.

Pharr said he accepted the invitation to overcome any fear and honor Steele. He talked with one of Steele's daughters before the jump.

"I didn't psych myself up," he said. "Initially going into it, I was nervous."

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