Skip to comments.Aussie skydiver falls to death at Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado
Posted on 10/06/2003 6:39:50 AM PDT by dead
One of the world's best BASE jumpers, Australian Dwain Weston, died when a stunt parachute jump in the United States went awry and he hit a bridge before falling onto rocks.
Weston, 30, and another parachutist, had jumped from an aeroplane and were to descend either side of the 316-metre high Royal Gorge Bridge, the world's highest suspension bridge near Canon City in Colorado.
Weston, who was travelling at an estimated 160kph, miscalculated his distance from the bridge, said Heather Hill, vice president of a company sponsoring the inaugural Go Fast Games for extreme sports.
Known for pushing his extreme sport to the limit, Weston misjudged the tricky winds, struck a railing and fell onto a rock face roughly 90 metres from the bottom of the gorge.
"I really couldn't believe it. All I ever heard was he was the best in the world, and he had skill to do it," Ms Hill said.
"Of course he always understood the risk and consequences of what he did. He was somewhat of a showman in his sport."
Weston was wearing a "wing suit", which has fabric extending below the arms to the body, with more fabric between the legs, allowing a skydiver to catch the air and travel more horizontally.
The Royal Gorge is narrow for manoeuvring parachutes, and winds are tricky, according to Go Fast Parachuting director Jimmy Pouchert.
There were about 200 people on the bridge at the time of the accident, said Royal Gorge Bridge and Park executive director Mike Bandera. The bridge was shut down for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Before the accident, Weston had participated in the Go Fast Games, jumping off the bridge with about 40 other BASE jumpers - athletes who skydive from fixed objects.
Weston, who also worked as a computer analyst, was a prominent member of Australia's BASE jumping community, and had been president of the Australian BASE Association. BASE is an acronym for Building Antenna, Span and Earth.
He had pioneered many techniques in the sport over the past few years, BASE jumping websites said.
Weston had performed hundreds of BASE jumps across the globe. including jumping from the 73rd floor of Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers building.
He was well aware of the risks involved in the sport which is not recognised in Australia.
"You jump off something and after 2.8 seconds you're going 100km per hour," he was quoted as telling a magazine website in 1997.
"After six seconds you're going 180, and after nine seconds you're doing 200km per hour!"
In an article written in June this year, Weston wrote: "It is no secret that over the past five years I have pushed the limits hard.
"Although I train extensively and arm myself with the latest knowledge and technology, I have used these things simply to survive at the very edge, rather than allow myself any margin for error."
Experience, skill, accuracy, gear, weather conditions and the right mindset were essential before even considering BASE jumping, said Weston.
"It's not a sport for everyone," he said.
"It's not about having the balls to jump off a cliff. It's about being able to deal with a problem if it arises."
His death left international devotees of the extreme sport shaken.
Hours after news of his death became public, shocked BASE jumpers from around the world posted tributes on the Dropzone.com website.
A BASE jumper from Portland, Oregon, using the name Narcimund, described Weston's death as "absolutely unbelievable".
"Dwain never broke a bone," he wrote.
"Over 1,200 base jumps with never a broken bone or other injury."
Matthew Nekvapil, of Kuala Lumpur, said he was shocked by the news.
"Wow. I've read so much about this guy although I've never seen any of his videos," he said.
"Only 30, so young."
Base570 wrote: "Dwain was a true pioneer in our small sport, always pushing the limits."
BASE jumping deaths in Australia
1986 - Marilyn Ettema, killed jumping from a cliff at Wollomombi Falls in NSW.
1993 - Jason Rooney, found dead below Sydney's Blues Point Tower, from which he had BASE jumped several times.
1993 - Joe Shaw, died after hitting a cliff while jumping at Bungonia Gorge, NSW.
1997 - Peter Torben, died after hitting a cliff while jumping at Bungonia Gorge.
2000 - Trevor Yates, found dead at an impact site in the Wollemi National Park, NSW.
Source: Australia BASE Association website
One of the world's best BASE jumpers
the inaugural Go Fast Games for extreme sports.
Arent you glad youre not an investor in the Go Fast Games?
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They say it's really dangerous, but the fatality rate is only 3%, he told me. Oh, I said.
So, if "the best" ever offers you a ride, my advice would be to decline.
Unfortunately, the problem that arose was a railing at 100 MPH.
Had I been forced to cross it, I would have crawled like your husband.
Emergency room workers call the bikes "donorcycles."
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