Scare for bungee jumpers after man dies
BUNGEE jumpers' confidence has been knocked, after a man died after falling around 60 feet to the ground while doing a charity jump.The 22-year-old, who has not yet been named but was reported to weigh 18 stone, was taking part in the extreme sport at a Bank Holiday fundraising event in Swansea, south Wales.
By Tracey Sparling
BUNGEE jumpers' confidence has been knocked, after a man died after falling around 60 feet to the ground while doing a charity jump.
The 22-year-old, who has not yet been named but was reported to weigh 18 stone, was taking part in the extreme sport at a Bank Holiday fundraising event in Swansea, south Wales.
His leap - from a 200ft-high cage held by a crane in a pub car park - had been organised as part of a family fun day to raise £5,000 for Morriston Hospital, where he was taken following the incident. He died later in the hospital.
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It has also emerged the man was not insured - every jumper was asked to sign a legal disclaimer first.
Today John Snape, from the London-based UK Bungee Jump Club which runs jumps in Suffolk once or twice a year, said the British Elastic Rope Sports Association had a code of practice by which most bungee operators abided.
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But he added that there was no legislation requiring operators to follow the code of practice.
"It is a very thorough code of practice. We have been in the business for ten years and have put between 100,000 and 120,000 people through bungee jumps without one single incident. That is quite an impressive statistic. Bungee jumping is an extreme sport and it's thought of as dangerous but if it's carried out correctly with experts in charge, it is very very safe.
"I do not know what happened in this incident but my strongest piece of advice would be that when you are choosing a bungee jump operator you should make sure that they have triple-checking procedures when the harness is put on. That is paramount.
"This accident will knock people's confidence, but it will also bring good - in that rogue operators will be weeded out. I'm not saying that's what happened in this accident, we don't know yet."
South Wales Police today said an inquiry is underway, and it is still unclear what caused the man to fall.
Alan James, owner of N and A James Ltd, of Carmarthen, the firm which hired the crane to the event organisers, said it had checked out "A-OK."
Diane Connor, landlady of the pub where the accident happened, said: "The man was not the first to go — at least ten had gone before him. But something obviously went wrong and he fell from quite a height onto the ground.
"There were hundreds of people here. It was a family day and there were a lot of children running around. Everyone was shocked and upset."
Bungee jumpers are thought to have taken their inspiration from young men on the tiny South Pacific island of Pentecost.
Historians believe they began the ritual of tying vines around their ankles and leaping off a tower made of logs and branches in an attempt to prove their courage and bravery.
The annual event still takes place and has developed into a tourist attraction.
In 1954, writers from National Geographic magazine witnessed and reported on the ritual while visiting the island.
The first outsider to attempt the dive was the magazine's Kal Muller in 1970, who jumped off an 83ft high tower with a vine attached to his feet.
His story reached Oxford University's Dangerous Sports Club. Students made a number of experimental jumps in the 1970s, including one from a 245ft high bridge in Bristol.
A video of the jumps made its way to New Zealand man AJ Hackett. His experiments with thick ropes made of hundreds of elastic strands culminated in a high-profile dive off the Eiffel Tower in June 1987 which was televised worldwide.
The following year, Mr Hackett opened the world's first commercial bungee jumping site over a river in Ohakune, New Zealand, with other operators setting up sites in America and Europe.
It is estimated that at least ten million people worldwide have bungee jumped, most from towers or bridges but others from helicopters and hot air balloons.
However, there have been several fatalities.
In May, an engaged couple fell more than 300ft to their deaths when their bungee jump went wrong in Italy.
The couple had jumped in tandem from a 328ft high bridge over a river gorge near the town of Terni. An investigation found that clips holding the elastic band gave way.