HANG glider Adam Parer was in a horizontal spin, fighting potentially deadly g-forces and seconds from plunging to his death, when he thought of one thing.
Mr Parer had lost his French wife Lauren after years of chronic illness and said he felt like she was with him in his most deadly hour.
"The French have a saying, joie de vivre, which basically means live life," he said.
"I felt like she was with me saying 'live'."
He did live and is back at work as a firefighter at Hamilton Fire Station and has even been back in the air.
Mr Parer was an international hang glider with years of experience when he entered a competition at Gulgong in late 2009.
He was about 6500 feet up when he crossed "air like I had never experienced before".
Mr Parer said the air was "bubbling over" and lifted his prototype hang glider and flipped it frontwards twice.
The wings then folded together and the craft spun horizontally six times.
The force pushed Mr Parer outwards, sent blood to his head but he remained conscious.
The forces became so strong they broke the industrial-strength connection between Mr Parer and the glider. In the space of 10 seconds he was flung from the craft across the sky and was falling vertically from about 6000 feet, still in his gliding pocket.
When he reached for his military grade high-tech parachute, it jammed.
After repeated attempts it deployed, slowing Mr Parer's descent from about 250km/h to 30km/h in a split second.
That, he said, was what caused the damage.
Mr Parer suffered 10 broken ribs, a collapsed lung and his sternum broke in three places.
When he landed outside Cassilis, a farmer who rarely visited his property was, by chance, in the next field fixing a fence and went to his aid.
When other competitors landed the farmer was the only one with phone service. He called an ambulance and directed crews to the remote location.
Within two hours Mr Parer was in John Hunter Hospital, but doctors remained concerned.
Overnight his lung reinflated, he left hospital eight days later and spent months recovering.
While his mates had given him a hard time about his special parachute, Mr Parer said it saved his life.
"When I stopped hearing the air, I knew I was in big trouble," he said.
"I couldn't even lift my hands because of the force.
"The only thing I could do was try and get my parachute open. It was the longest 10 seconds of my life."
Mr Parer said similar situations had only ever happened four times before and were all fatal.
The parachute makers rang Mr Parer.
"They said if I was one pound heavier I probably wouldn't have lived," he said.