Published: September 18, 2017
Irene O'shea jumped with SA Skydiving for her 100th birthday last year to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association SA (www.mndsa.org.au/)
This year she is back, again raising money for a charity very close to her heart, but also, to set a new World Record as the oldest female skydiver in the World.
At a spritely 101 years and 110 days, Irene yesterday arrived at SA Skydiving's Langhorne Creek Dropzone with some 50 support crew. Included in the crew were most of her five grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. Channel 9's Today Show, the Advertiser and the ABC were all there to cover the story in a show of support to help awareness and fundraising for MNDSA.
A team of SA Skydiving instructors had worked hard in the lead up to the jump, ensuring every element of safety had been covered, mitigating as much risk as possible. After 4 frustrating dates already being post-poned due to weather, the morning of Sunday 17th September, again teased us with variable winds.
Everyone's patience was rewarded when just after 3pm, the green light was given.
Then dropzone came to life, cameras were rolling and it was game on.
Irene was geared up into a harness and special leg straps, designed to assist raising her legs on landing. She was given some refresher training (it's only just over a year since her last jump) and had the opportunity to spread her message about MND. She told Channel 9's Christine Ahern, "We have to find a cure for this most dreadful disease". Irene's daughter, Shelagh, died of MND in 2008 and was at the front of Irene's thoughts.
She shared some good luck hugs and kisses with her family and was ready to head up to 14,000ft.
Irene was perhaps the calmest skydiver we have encountered saying "it's just another day, I just live my life" It was her instructor, Jed Smith, 77 years her junior who was the only one admitting to a few pre-jump nerves. Despite his 3500 skydives he said; "This is one of the few jumps where I'm more nervous than my student, she is as cool as a cucumber". He went on to say; "It's thrilling and exciting when someone pushes the boundaries; for someone willing to throw the rule book out the window like this."
This skydive, as well as raising money for Motor Neurone Disease, is also a World Record. The previous record, set in 2004, was held by Astrid Geersten who was 100 years and 60 days. Not only is Irene older, but she also went 900 feet higher than her predecessor.
When the door opened, cameramen Bryce Sellick and John Shepherd took up their positions and the 4 skydivers jumped together into freefall.
Once under a canopy, Irene and Jed cruised above the Fleurieu Penninsula, taking in the views of Lake Alexandrina and the Coorong.
The skydive went very smoothly and upon a smooth landing, Irene was all smiles; "it's a bit windy" she said, after falling at 220kph.
She celebrated with a glass of sparkling and when asked about returning once more for another jump, she replied "You don't know what the future holds"
An inspirational lady, Irene, we thank you for sharing the skies with SA Skydiving.
To support the cause, head to www.mndsa.org.au/
If you have a cause you'd like to support, SA Skydiving is always willing to help. Head to our charity skydives page for more info