Stories of Impact - Hunter's Story

After 3,500-Foot Fall, U.S. Air Force Pilot Flying High Again Thanks to Seton

Why Give - Hunter Davis Portrait

Your support gives people a second chance at life.

In August 2012, U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Hunter Davis was practicing free-fall training near San Marcos. During the low altitude jump, his main parachute malfunctioned leaving him tangled and spinning to the ground. Then, unbelievably, things got worse. His cut-away system also failed. Hunter was upside-down and heading head-first toward the ground. Fighting centrifugal force, he used all his strength to pull himself up and avoid a life-ending, head-first impact. With no inflation from his chute, Hunter fell 3,500 feet to the ground in a mere 30 seconds.

He was evacuated by air to University Medical Center Brackenridge and its Level I trauma center. Dr. Ben Coopwood, a top trauma surgeon, was the first to see the young pilot and feared he would be pronouncing Hunter dead on arrival. To Dr. Coopwood’s great surprise, Hunter was talking coherently and trying to triage his own injuries. By landing parallel to the ground, Hunter saved his head but shattered his pelvis and suffered a myriad of severe injuries including multiple fractures to his spine, a dropped lung, torn arteries and lacerations to several organs. 

Hunter’s parents Bob and Dana Davis rushed from Louisiana to their son’s side. During that anxious trip, hospital social worker Carol Nick kept them up to date on Hunter’s condition. “We served as a lifeline between Hunter and his parents, and my hope is that we were able to give them some sense of peace during an extremely difficult time," recalled Nicks. 

When Bob and Dana Davis arrived, they were able to see their son before he was whisked away for life-saving surgery. Dana recalled, "During all of this we found a few moments of pure grace in a place where grace is sometimes hard to recognize. Seton’s talented and busy staffers each took a moment to tell a heartbroken mother that they recognized the patient in front of them for who he was—a beloved son, a brother, and a bright and talented pilot."

Why Give - Hunter Davis Flight SuitFull recovery from an injury this severe is rare. However, after pelvic surgery and months of rehabilitation, Hunter not only survived but is thriving. Other than a tiny amount of weakness on his left side, it's almost like the accident didn't happen. Hunter is grateful for his second chance at life. Miraculously, Hunter was back in the saddle as an Air Force pilot just eight months after the accident.

As Hunter told the Austin American-Statesman, "They [UMC Brackenridge] were instrumental in preserving whatever career I had left. If it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't have survived. I'm afraid I'll never be able to come up with the right words to thank them. I just hope my life can be a tribute to them." His parents echo the sentiment by saying, “thank you for giving us our child.” 

More lives like Hunter’s can be forever impacted at Seton’s new teaching hospital and new home for Level I trauma care — Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas (DSMC-UT). We need your generous support to continue our mission of caring for others and to make DSMC-UT a reality. 


American Superhero Lt. Hunter Davis Saved by Seton Super Docs 

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