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Paralyzed Skydiver Goes It Alone

July 27, 1998

ORANGE, Va. (AP) _ Skydiving took Ned Wulin’s ability to walk away from him. And it is skydiving that lets him leave his wheelchair behind for a few seconds of free fall.

He lost the use of his legs in a plane crash on Nov. 16, 1996, on his way to a skydiving jump. For 17 months, he didn’t jump _ though for two decades before he jumped 3,000 times, taking to it so well that he began to teach others.

``It was kind of spooky, not jumping for so long,″ said Wulin, 37.

He developed a system of nylon straps that lets him raise his legs when he nears the ground so he can land safely. He ends up taking the brunt of the fall in his paralyzed legs and bottom.

It looks a bit awkward, but it’s worth it for the free fall that lasts less than a minute, he said.

``It’s like lying on a bed of air,″ he said. ``It’s a feeling of freedom.″

He still teaches skydiving, when he isn’t working at his family’s tree nursery.

Parachuting experts believe he’s the only paralyzed skydiver in the nation who makes jumps without assistance, said Dany Brooks, director of communications at the United States Parachute Association.

``A lot of people are worse off than me,″ Wulin said. ``Hopefully, some day people will figure out how to repair spinal cords.″

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