• Family members skydive in memory of loved ones

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    CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. - Colorful parachutes often gleam in the skies over Chester County because it's home to a skydive business that takes up thousands of people each year.

    However, for the group of people jumping from 14,000 feet this week, it isn't just about a thrill. They're jumping in honor of lost loved ones.

    A group called Families of Highway Fatalities is a statewide support group that helps people deal with the tremendous loss after a traffic death. It's that organization, part of the Department of Public Safety, that put on this special event.

    "I know William will be up there with me," said Elizabeth Livingston, who lost her son in 2008.

    He overcorrected his car and lost control.

    "The last thing he said to me was 'Mom, I love you,'" she said. Now, she's jumping from a plane, for him.

    Cindy Sease of Rock Hill, lost her daughter Kelsey in 2005. She was on her way back from the beach, and the people in the car were taking pictures inside the car.

    "As the driver tried to take a picture of her in the back seat, my daughter in the back seat, she lost control of the vehicle," Sease said. "She went into the median, and slammed into two trees."

    For families dealing with such tragedy, the FHF has stepped up to help by providing support, friendship and understanding.

    Livingston said it's even more than that.

    "It was probably the first time I felt like there was any hope that I would get through it. Because for a while I didn't believe I would," she said.

    Jim Waters lost his daughter in 2007. He wants to jump, to feel a special connection to her.

    "Hopefully, I will feel her spirit up there with me," he said.

    Like many of the men and woman taking part, Treasa Crosland wears a pin with her granddaughter Kala's picture on it.

    "We lost her in 2005, three days before her 19th birthday," she said. "I'm here today, jumping in her memory. She'll be jumping with me. I know because that's something she'd do."

    Every jumper goes in tandem, strapped to an experienced instructor from Skydive Carolina.

    The instructors themselves are also facing tragedy.

    Fellow instructor Alan Martinez is in a coma in a Columbia hospital. Police said he was hit by a drunken driver on Interstate 77 two weeks ago, on the way to his job in Chester County.

    James la Barrie is his boss.

    "All of the folks jumping today have lost loved ones, and we're without a member of our community who is hugely valuable to us," he said.

    Martinez is making progress but has not regained consciousness.

    As each jumper suits up, and makes sure the safety equipment is on properly, there are many tears.

    They think about the person they're jumping for.

    They carry those memories with them, up to 14,000, and gently back down to the ground.

    "It will be like connecting with her spirit up there when we're free falling," Waters said.


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