His plan was to parachute onto the top of the arch. It didn't bother Kenneth that the park service had turned down his request for permission to jump. Kenneth had already made over 1,600 jumps. He knew what he was doing. And a true daredevil never needs permission.
The day dawned with howling winds and bitter cold. The weather would have given most parachutists second thoughts about making a jump. But Kenneth had psyched himself up by watching a documentary on parachute daredevils, and Kenneth knew what he was doing.
He left his wife a note asking her to come and photograph his triumph. At 8:55 a.m. he leapt from a light plane and soared successfully to the top of the monument. He had conquered the Gateway Arch, with his wife watching from the ground!
He grabbed onto the aircraft warning light, to steady himself against the raging wind. The first part of the plan had gone perfectly. Of course it had, Kenneth knew what he was doing. Now came the harder part: getting down.
The arch is hollow, with a viewing area inside, just beneath Kenneth's feet. Perhaps he was looking for a trap-door into the arch, but there was no trap-door. A gust of wind caught his deflated parachute and threw him off balance. He began sliding down the north leg of the arch. About halfway down, he tried to deploy his backup parachute, but it failed.
Another gust caught his parachute and blew him off the arch. He fell the rest of the way, landing head-first in the terrazzo below. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital about one hour after performing his last jump.
And that's what comes from thinking you know what you're doing. Reader Andy says, "Actually this story is older than 1980. I heard about it on a tour of the arch in the 1970s, and it was old then. The would-be parachutist hit the top of the arch at an angle, his chute collapsed, and when he tried to stand and release his chute, a gust of wind pulled him onto the slope. The chute collapsed again,and he left a crater. BUT, the story goes, if the Cardinals were playing a home game, he had a helluva view for a few seconds. Also, you can't fly under the arch, because of a semi-disasterous attempt to do so."