Talking to some friends yesterday about thrills like parachuting and paragliding, I reached for my computer and showed the June 15th video on this site of people screaming excitedly during their maiden tandem BASE jump. Suddenly I saw that my friend was not smiling, but crying, and she asked me to turn it off. A neighbor and friend of a friend in her town was being buried as we talked after making a first-time, tandem parachute jump from a plane in which the chute never opened and both jumpers were killed. More poignantly, the jumps were gifts at a 50th birthday party for guests who had the courage and interest to try it out. I heard how the man’s wife also jumped and was walking along afterward looking for her lost husband. The CBS news story starts out like this:
David Winoker was a guy who didn’t take chances, always driving below the speed limit, always using several layers of sun block. His wife says she urged him to go skydiving Friday, and he reluctantly agreed. Taking that risk cost him his life…Three million people skydive in this country every year. In 2011, there were 21 related fatalities. Of those, just one was a tandem jump like Winoker’s.
As I started to tell my daughter about it later on, she interrupted and said she definitely wants to try jumping…and then I told her about this accident. A severe reminder that there is always danger in these thrilling adventures that take no skill, no practice. Just courage and money. When I jumped out of planes 50 years ago, it was after three weeks of conditioning under strict supervision. Yet people were killed and injured anyway. It’s a risky game. And jumping in tandem is definitely not a sport.
A few days earlier, I’d found this story about an experienced mountain climber who fell to his death. I knew two people who went hiking and fell over cliffs and died. It all sounds so idyllic, but accidents do happen, even to experienced professionals.