Skydiver Ray Woodcock, 70, completes 30,000ft jump

image captionRay Woodcock fell to Earth at speeds of up to 180mph

A 70-year-old from Essex has completed a skydive from 30,000ft (5.68 miles) - the highest altitude available to civilians.

Ray Woodcock fell to Earth at speeds of up to 180mph (289km/h) in a tandem jump over Tennessee last month.

His instructors claim to be the only providers of the jump and told him he was their oldest jumper.

"I stared in wonder and could see the curvature of the Earth," Mr Woodcock said.

"I thought 'oh my godfathers, what's going on?'

"Then there's a tap on the shoulder and a jerk and the parachute opens after exactly two minutes of freefalling."

Mr Woodcock has completed many extreme fundraising treks and climbs in the past seven years and hoped for "something special" when he turned 70.

A booked trek to an advanced base camp of Mount Everest was pulled amid political tensions, he said, so he had to find an alternative.

He decided on a freefall at more than twice the altitude of most charity skydives, which are usually about 13,000ft (2.46 miles).

image captionMr Woodcock hoped to raise £2,000 for a children's charity

He was training for the jump in Tennessee when Felix Baumgartner set a new world record for the highest freefall at 128,100ft (24.26 miles)

image captionRay Woodcock landed next to a photographer

"I was in the hangar when we heard lots of shouting in the TV room," he said.

"We ran through and that's when I saw Felix. I wanted to go home."

His jump with West Tennessee Skydiving Centre was modelled on the military's high-altitude, low opening (HALO) training jumps.

"The most frightening part was going up in the special forces plane as it has no doors," he added.

"I just had to concentrate on what I was doing."

He added that, incredibly, his instructor was able to land them within a few feet of, and facing, a waiting photographer.

Mr Woodcock said he hoped to raise about £2,000 for the Southend Taxi Drivers Charity Fund, which raises money for local sick and disabled children.

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