Andy Wirth was recently appointed chairman to the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Board but before that crowning moment the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski nearly lost it all. Last October Wirth was involved in a deadly sky diving accident that left without an arm, struggling to stay alive. As is his style in business, Wirth kept a cool head and relied on his unconventional nature to save his own life.

Andy Wirth may not be an adrenaline junky but he definitely likes to push himself against nature. Wirth is an accomplished triathlete with focus on cycling and running but his passion has always been for skydiving. The Squaw Valley CEO learned to skydive and quickly made it one of his weekend hobbies. Last year in one of his routine jumps he was blown off course and forced to try a landing in a crowded vineyard, which is dangerous and far from ideal. Wirth ended up clipping a pole and getting hung up while in the process watching his arm get ripped from its socket.

Spouting blood and knowing that help was at least twenty minutes away the businessman turned to his own cool nature to stay alive. Wirth began to hum the Pearl Jam song “Keep Breathing” in order to fight the rapidly impending shock. Using his fist as a ball underneath his injured arm, Wirth was able to prevent himself from bleeding out until help arrived. He would spend three months in a hospital recuperating.

A fortunate meeting after discharge brought Wirth face to face with a Navy Seal unit. He made friends with a few members and they went on to form a competitive triathlete team called the Special Warfare Warrior Support Team. They raise funds for Navy Seals who have lost either their limbs or lives while in service. Wirth cites his friendship with these Navy Seals as the primary motivator to keep going and keep trying to get back to his old self and now he competes in Ironman competitions with the team. Wirth has come a long way since that dreaded October accident and he won’t be slowed down any time soon.