A Belfast wheelchair user has described his experience of indoor skydiving as “freeing”.
Christopher Sloan, 34, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 22.
He has been using a wheelchair for three years due to the hereditary illness which claimed the lives of two of his uncles.
Staff at indoor activity centre We Are Vertigo said he surpassed the heights of many others on their first attempt.
He also inspired his brother David, who also has Parkinson’s, to give it a try.
It all started when his uncle Peter Sloan arranged for his bucket list request to try skydiving for his 34th birthday, thanks to the facilities at the centre in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, a short distance from their home in the Markets area.
After the experience, his mother Brigid sent a thank you message to staff saying he had “not stopped smiling since”.
The team at the centre then invited both brothers to try an indoor skydiving session.
After his second go, Christopher said he was already looking forward to trying it again.
“It was amazing. I felt so free. I can’t wait to do it again,” he said.
His brother David sported a superman costume for his turn, saying: “It was the best experience I’ve had, apart from my kids being born.”
Peter Sloan said it had been incredible to watch.
“It was incredible to watch him in action and see the pure excitement and joy that being weightless and flying brought to him,” he said.
“He wanted to come back and his brother David also wanted to try it, so we are so grateful to the team at We Are Vertigo for their kindness in inviting us back – it’s given us all a big lift.
“The team were so good with them both. It’s important that there be no limits when you have disabilities – there’s enough obstacles out there stopping us.
“The instructors and staff made us feel like there was nothing Christopher and David couldn’t do.
“It’s amazing to have facilities like this in Belfast, that help people like Christopher and David. It provides a really important release, gets them out of the house and helps improve their mental health as well.”
We Are Vertigo managing director Gareth Murphy described the brothers as inspiring.
“We were so inspired when we saw Christopher taking flight – he is living proof that there are no limits to what you can achieve when you put your mind to something,” he said.
“We were so touched by the positive and uplifting impact that the experience had for Christopher and his family, and when we heard that his brother David also wanted to have a go, we had to invite them back to experience the thrill of indoor skydiving together.
“Maeve, one of our instructors, was there during Christopher’s first flight and was blown away by how quickly he followed the instructions and achieved independent flight, far surpassing the heights reached by many people on their first go.
“She was so inspired by his story that when we told her we were bringing Christopher and his brother back, she came into work on her day off to see them fly again.
“Seeing the joy and freedom they experienced was just incredible and instilled a great sense of pride amongst our entire team that we were able to play a part in helping them to achieve their dreams.
“We’ve given Christopher and David an open invitation to return and use our facilities any time they want and we look forward to sharing many more flights with them in the future.”