Let me pause here to explain a few things. First, obviously, a quad-front is four front flips. A mini-tramp is a small trampoline set at a 45-degree angle to help "block" you and translate your forward running momentum upwards. A foam pit is (in this case) a 7-foot deep open pit with foam mats on the bottom and hundreds of 6x6in foam blocks filling it up - think of a kid's ballroom.
Now, four front flips is severely pushing anyone's limits, even mine and my friend Sasha. But it was a foam pit so theoretically should he not make it the foam would catch him. Although the level of the foam was about 2 feet lower than the floor (it should be level with the floor but over time the foam blocks compact and need to be "fluffed") he had piled a good amount a blocks on his intended landing zone. There were about a dozen people at the gym but only a few of us stood witness by the pit as he made his attempt. He ran forth and took off from the mini-tramp, executing three flips before hitting the foam and was still flipping as he entered the pit, missing his fluffed pile of blocks. We heard an audible thunk a mere second after he disappeared under the foam and feared the worst.
After hearing the noise Sash told me to jump in and check on him, which I was already doing. I jumped into the pit and looked to see if he was moving. He wasn't so I dug down further (digging into a pit is like digging into loose sand - if you don't fling the blocks far enough away they roll back down into the hole) to try to expose his head, because the foam blocks muffle sound very well, so if he was just in a position where he couldn't move but was conscious, I wanted to hear him. When I couldn't hear anything I checked for a pulse, it was rapid but there. His back was sticking up, hunched over, and it looked like his head was ducked underneath still in the tucked flipping position, so I checked to make sure he was still breathing and not suffocating on the foam. I couldn't hear any respiration when I put my ear against his back, so I called in more people - two more guys who had had first-aid/EMS training in the past jumped in and we talked about getting him out of there so we could start CPR. Wary of his neck we decided to roll him over. In the process of stabilizing his head one of the guys felt wetness - we figured he threw up. We immediately rolled him over to work on clearing his airway.
It gets grisly from here out. To protect those with weak stomachs or who just don't wanna know I've colored the text the same as the background - highlight to read.
As soon as we pulled his head out we realized with horror that all our expectations about the severity of his injury were infinitesimal compared to what actually happened. He didn't throw up - he was hemorrhaging on his own blood, probably from biting his tongue, but also probably from simple massive head trauma. His cheeks were so swollen with blood and his jaw was definetly broken. His eyes were swollen shut but looked like they wanted to pop out of his sockets. his left brow ridge was clearly fractured. His entire face was just one huge bruise. The two guys (I know one was Ibrahim but I don't know the other guy's name - actually I know I just can't remember) and I worked to clear his mouth of blood and get the tongue out of the way to begin CPR. We couldn't clear it with our fingers so Ibrahim used chest compression. Lots of blood and something (part of his tongue?) came out as well, but we heard air making it into his lungs. Ibrahim was more recently trained than me and the other guy and even had a capsule on his keychain containing a plastic sheet with a filter we used to place over Jon's face to begin CPR.
The police medical first response team arrived and we were finally able to get him out of the pit (no mean task, Jon was a big guy). I remained in the pit at the edge to keep his head stabilized while the medical team went to work resuscitating him and applying the automatic defib machine.
We still had a weak pulse and were manually resuscitating him when EMS arrived. At this point they completely took over the show, which was fine with me. I wasn't feeling sick or anything but I was a bit shaky, and me and the three guys went to the restroom to wash up and get all the blood off our hands and arms. My lower left pant leg too was soaked and I had more higher up is spots and patches. My shirt had spots as well. Blood was on my shoes and even on my socks and inside my left shoe. I threw all my clothes out when I got home. Screw it.
They worked on Jon for a good 15 minutes before carting him off to the hospital, still manually pumping air into him and getting an irregular heartbeat. We had to stick around for another hour and a half waiting for the police detectives to arrive so we could all give statements. After that Sash and I had to clear people out and lock up the gym and finally head for the hospital.
We got to the hospital and were able to see the doctor, who of course couldn't reveal the status of Jon because we weren't kin, but he and the nurse dropped pretty convincing hints. The doc, after hearing Sasha re-tell what happened, stood up to shake our hands, saying we did a "good job trying to help him". And then after the doctor left the nurse told us he "went quick, he didn't feel any pain". It's pretty easy to read between the lines. His ex-girlfriend and her friend showed up for a while but had to leave because they couldn't stay any longer. His room mate came next with his girl and another of our friends. We got hold of his step-dad around 4am for confirmation that Jon was in fact dead. I finally got back home at close to 5am and hopped straight into the shower.
Today I heard from Sash that the cause of death was a broken neck - his spine had been pushed up into his brain at the moment of impact - coupled with the massive head trauma, the coroner said he had a thin skull. We had theorized, but Sash learned for sure today that when Jon missed his pile he also managed to land in just the right spot to send his head through a seam between two mats at the bottom of the pit and straight down to the concrete. He was dead before I even got to him.
No one should ever have to be witness to a close friend dying before their eyes, and I hope it never happens to any of you reading this. I'm pretty pragmatic about death. It happens, and it's never fair to see someone so young (he was 27) and promising get snuffed out like this. But he was doing something he loved and he didn't feel any pain. In lieu of death by old age what more could we ask for? The images of that night don't haunt me. It was many a valuable life lesson, from being reminded of the risks involved in what I do, to knowing what to do in similar situations in the future, and to knowing (finally, for sure) that I have the ability to jump into such a situation and do all I can to save someone. I didn't cry that nite, nor at all, at first because I knew I had done all I could to help him, and then when I knew he had gone without any pain. The hardest part for me is watching other people deal. Sash is blaming himself, and his room mate, also a close friend of mine, is obviously in bad shape... but I'm happy knowing I can be there for them and anyone else when they need me.
No idea right now what the legal fallout of all this will be, whether Jonas (I don't work there, Sash does) will stay in business or not. The funeral is supposed to be on Saturday, but we heard that from one of the detectives, we're still waiting for Jon's step-dad to call Sash with details.
Jon, you were a crazy motherfucker, and I'll miss you for it. Rest well in Heaven bro, I know you'll be watching over all of us.