Santa Rosa man reunited with prosthetic leg after losing it during Cloverdale skydive
It was an unusual discovery: A prosthetic leg in a Nike tennis shoe was found early Monday in a Cloverdale lumberyard.
It turns out the leg fell from the sky, lost during a skydive Sunday afternoon at the nearby Cloverdale Municipal Airport, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.
It belonged to Santa Rosa native Dion Callaway. The 39-year-old man, who has performed nearly 500 jumps since 2003, lost the prosthetic leg at the beginning of his 10,000-foot dive. When he landed, Dion and others from NorCal Skydiving launched a daylong search of nearby vineyards and properties where it might have fallen.
“I’ve jumped with the prosthetic before, but a rush of air got inside this time and it just flew off,” Callaway said Monday after being reunited with his leg. “I tried to watch where it was falling, but I was so overwhelmed in that moment I could not keep track.”
Tyler Wareham, owner of NorCal Skydiving, said Callaway, a regular customer, was noticeably bummed when he landed and couldn’t immediately find the leg. “We understood. We tried to do the best we could” to find it, Wareham said.
On Monday, Callaway, who lost his real leg in a skydiving accident, received a call from deputies that lifted his spirits.
An employee at the Redwood Empire lumberyard spotted something on the ground earlier that day, apparently seeing a glint from the metal leg. The morning shift at the Asti Road yard started at 6 a.m., and the worker at first thought it was a soda, said Micah Smith, yard production manager.
When the sky lightened, workers got a clearer view.
Smith’s reaction: “Oh, that’s not a soda can, that’s a leg.”
“My first concern was ‘OK, where’s the rest?’” he recalled. Fearing the worst, he walked the property but thankfully didn’t find anything else, he said.
Smith called the Sheriff’s Office after he discovered that the leg had a serial number. Smith figured the owner could be found through the number and that he would want the prosthetic leg and shoe back.
“It was a nice looking Nike,” he said.
A deputy came for the prosthesis and posted the news and a photo on social media under the heading “missing a leg?” The post asked for the public’s help in finding the owner.
Deputies widened their search and took the leg to the airport, which backs up to the lumberyard. That’s when Wareham discovered Callaway’s leg had been found.
Word also got back to the lumberyard that the mystery had been solved. “First and foremost I’m glad that was it. It was just a mishap. It wasn’t anything else and everybody is OK,” Smith said.
Callaway picked up his leg Monday afternoon from the Sheriff’s Office in Santa Rosa.
“My leg is in perfect shape — survived 10,000 feet,” Callaway said, laughing.
Before having his left leg amputated, the only injury he sustained from skydiving was a skinned elbow, Callaway said. While attempting a high-speed landing two years ago at the Cloverdale airport, he said he was too low to the ground and wound up shattering his heel. After over a year of physical therapy and various medical procedures, all the while not being able to skydive, Callaway opted to get his leg amputated below his knee.
“Skydiving is my everything and the people I do it with are my family,” Callaway said. “I always seem to come back to it.”
Before investing in a $15,000 prosthetic leg, he said, people from Norcal Skydiving would rush to him with crutches to help him back to his car after a jump. Since having the amputation, he has skydived about 20 times, though he hopes to get back to weekly jumps, said Callaway, who plans to go to Norway in July to BASE jump off 3,000-foot vertical walls.
“I have just learned to be present and have a good time no matter what,” Callaway said.
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