Wednesday, 31 May 2017

BASE Jumping: The Dangers

BASE Jumping

The JEP reported this story:

A ‘base jumper’ was filmed parachuting off the top of La Collette flats at Havre des Pas and landing in the car park below over the weekend.

But what is BASE?

BASE, for the uninitiated, is an acronym for building, antenna, span, and environment. In other words, the four elements from which a BASE parachuting jump may commence. The first two have an obvious meaning. Span and environment are bridges and, essentially, cliffs. However, there has been a tendency for BASE jumpers to also use tall buildings or sky scrapers.

While BASE jumping itself is often legal, the locations that are used for jumps are often restricted. Because of this, it is common to hear news of BASE jumpers being arrested and charged with trespassing, breaking and entering, or other similar charges

The website “The Legal Satyricon” notes that:

“One would imagine that such a risk-prone activity would spawn a fair amount of litigation. However, a review of the Lexis database reveals very few cases that have arisen out of BASE jumping activities. This article will analyze those cases and attempt to discover any common threads.”

He also highlights the extreme danger:

“In a conventional skydive, the jumper exits the aircraft while it is in flight, and while the pilot will (hopefully) cut the engine back a little bit.. Exiting the aircraft at 6,000 feet AGL gives the jumper approximately 36 seconds, at terminal velocity, before a fatal impact with the ground. 36 seconds may not sound like a lot of time, but when your life depends upon it, it is plenty. The average BASE jump is from about 1,000 feet. The BASE jumper has no margin for error.”

In 2012, a Channel 4 documentary (Cutting Edge: The Men Who Jump Off Buildings) showed Dan Witchalls and his pal Ian Richardson throwing themselves off high buildings.

Ian was shown crashing horribly, breaking three ribs and puncturing a lung less than a year after breaking his legs in another disaster.

According to statistics, BASE jumping appears to hold a five- to eightfold increased risk of injury or death compared with that of skydiving.

A study of BASE jumpers in 2012 reported that 72 percent of jumpers had witnessed death or serious injury of other participants in the sport, 43 percent (of) jumpers had suffered a significant BASE jump injury, and 76 percent had at least one 'near miss' incident (an incident which would most probably result in serious injury or fatality but was avoided).

The States of Jersey Police commented on the La Collette jumper:

"We have been made aware of a video circulating which appears to show somebody jumping from the top of a high rise building with a parachute (B.A.S.E. jumping). We do not know whether this is genuine or when this was taken and neither can we identify the individual concerned at this stage. "

"Together with our colleagues in the States of Jersey Fire and Rescue Service and Ambulance Service we would like to remind people of the real dangers of such activity for both the person jumping and anyone nearby."

One of the cases most likely to succeed was that of BASE Jumps as Reckless Endangerment, People v. Corliss

It is detailed by “The Legal Satyricon” as follows:

On April 27, 2006, professional BASE jumper, Jebb Corliss intended to jump from the Empire State Building. He was arrested before making the jump, and was indicted for Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree on or about October 5, 2007.

Under New York law, a Defendant may be found guilty of reckless endangerment if that person, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person. See PL § 120.25.

This standard is met if the defendant is both aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his actions will cause grave harm , and he consciously disregards that risk in such a manner that such disregard is a “gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation” (PL § 15.05[3])”.

The court noted that actual harm to another is not required to sustain a charge of reckless endangerment. The court held that while Mr. Corliss’ conduct was “dangerous and ill conceived” (their words, not mine), it did not rise to the level of “depraved indifference” for others.

“…so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so devoid of regard of the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to render the actor as culpable as one whose conscious objective is to kill”

Accordingly, the court granted Corliss’ motion to dismiss the indictment!!

On this case, Tom Prestia comments that:

“While base jumping does fall under the category of an extreme sport and anyone who does engage in it has a set, the safety and the welfare of the public still needs to be the number one focus. In my opinion, the court in the Corliss case erred when it found that the conduct was not a depraved indifference to human life.”

“Anyone who has been to New York knows that there are always people scattered throughout the streets not matter what time of day it is. Jumping off of a building with people below you does display a depraved indifference to human life. It is very likely that the defendant could have landed on a pedestrian or a vehicle causing injury."

“I am all about extreme sports and support base jumping, but if you are going to engage in the sport be responsible about it and go find a desolate cliff where nobody is around and get your thrills that way, or obtain a permit and clear the area below. This behaviour needs to be deterred by some method and these people should get the harshest punishment possible.”

1 comment:

Nick Palmer said...

That Tom Prestia is a numpty. The Empire State is high enough to give the jumper time to use a reserve chute, if the main failed. There are a lot of safe landing areas within gliding range of that building. NY taxis routinely "recklessly endanger" pedestrians way more than this one-off stunt would have done.

Also BASE jumpers often use the technique of "debagging" which makes correct deployment of the main chute almost certain (a lot more certain than normal skydiving drops). Paragliders use this technique too when they exit from from microlights, helicopters etc. The La Collette jumper used this technique - check the video and you will see him/her drop what appears to be a bag (which is the parachute container) first.