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When bungees break

When bungees break

January 18, 2012

To some, it’s an idea of a good time. Leaping into the air and free falling hundreds of feet tethered to a rubber-band-like rope above a river full of snapping crocodiles. It’s all fun and games — until the rope breaks.

And that is exactly what happened to Australian native, Erin Langworthy when she decided to take the plunge on New Year’s Eve and bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge, which spans the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. A video clip circulating the internet shows Langworthy’s cord snapping and shooting her 111 meters into the Zambezi River below.

Miraculously she survived (even with her feet still bound together and attached to the cord) and managed to out-maneuver the hungry crocs and rapid currents and pull herself to shore, suffering only bruises and a broken collarbone.

But accidents like these are not uncommon. In 2009 Mark Afforde was on his second bungee jump of the day, plummeting 200-feet above Canyon Creek Bridge near Yacolt, Washington, when his cord snapped. Fortunately, Afforde suffered just minor injuries and was able to walk to shore where he was taken to a nearby hospital.

While the scenarios for a bungee cord accident can vary, all are very traumatic. Bungee jumping is an extreme activity, which means that extreme care needs to be taken when attempting a bungee jump. Many different types of serious injuries, including broken bones, and even death, are possible if certain precautions are not taken. For this reason, many states now have regulated laws in place to help increase the safety of bungee jumping.

Some things to consider before taking the leap:

  • Remember that state laws – in regards to bungee jumping – are not all the same. What is legal in one state may be illegal in another.
  • Many states have a “fixed position law” which requires that the bungee cord be attached to a stationary object. In some states however, it is legal to jump from a moving platform, such as a helicopter or a hot-air-balloon.
  • Prepare for landing. Many incidents where bungee cords have broken, and jumpers have survived, have taken place over water (such as a river or lake). Some states have regulated that jumps can only take place over inflated air bags. Even if it is not a law in your specific area, jumping over an inflated air bag is always a recommended safety precaution.
  • Helmets are mandatory, no matter what state you are jumping in. The most important piece of equipment is the bungee cord itself. States have guidelines on how old a bungee cord can be and how much weight can be supported by each cord. These questions should be asked to the bungee jumping company prior to attempting a jump.
  • When bungee jumping, it is wise to use a company that is fully sanctioned and cleared to operate. Ask to see the companies license and their individual safety requirements before attempting a jump.

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