A BASE jumper survived a 270m fall into a river after his parachute failed to open. Christopher Brewer, 27, hit the water at speeds of between 100 and 130km/h, and was only saved by his wingsuit – a suit which adds surface area to his body to add lift, thereby slowing the fall down.

The jump took place as part of the annual Bridge Day festival in West Virginia, USA. Bridge Day is the only day on which BASE jumping is allowed off the New River Gorge Bridge. In fact, it is one exception to the general ban of BASE jumping throughout national parks in the USA.

BASE Jumping Dangers

BASE (which stands for Building, Antenna, Span [i.e. bridge], Earth [i.e. cliff]) jumping is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Tom Buchanan, a US-based skydiving instructor and BASE jumper has said that some jumpers “accept the risks and treat BASE jumping as a wild game of Russian roulette.”

Despite BASE jumping being legal on Bridge Day, three jumpers have died during the 34-year history of the event.

A 2008 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine estimated that in 2002, there was one fatality per 60 jumpers.

The following fatalities have been recorded by Australian BASE jumpers:

  • Lucas Oliver’s parachute failed to open during a jump from a phone tower in Dandaragan, Western Australia
  • Kylie Tanti’s parachute became tangled during a jump from the Alor Setar Tower in Malaysia on September 27 2010
  • Daryl Norris died after jumping from Wallaman Falls in Queensland on May 23 2010

According to an 'Australian Story' report made by Australian news broadcaster the ABC, BASE jumping is effectively illegal in Australia because permission is needed to jump off buildings or other structures, or cliffs in national parks – this permission is normally refused by authorities.