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Aussie skydiver falls to death at Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado
Sydney Morning Herald ^ | October 6, 2003

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."

AAP/AP

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


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: australia; bridge; parachute
One of the world's best BASE jumpers

Not anymore.

the inaugural Go Fast Games for extreme sports.

Aren’t you glad you’re not an investor in the Go Fast Games?

1 posted on 10/06/2003 6:39:50 AM PDT by dead
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2 posted on 10/06/2003 6:40:46 AM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: dead
Gravity happens.
3 posted on 10/06/2003 6:44:28 AM PDT by isthisnickcool (Guns!)
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To: dead
When I was skydiving, a friend of mine was into jumping off of things other than airplanes, which he called structure jumping.

They say it's really dangerous, but the fatality rate is only 3%, he told me. Oh, I said.

4 posted on 10/06/2003 6:45:35 AM PDT by monkey
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To: dead
...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 Gone Fast Games for extreme sports...
5 posted on 10/06/2003 6:46:14 AM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer (The democRATS are near the tipping point.)
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To: dead
Heck of a bridge to try that with, anyone who has been there should know you don't fool with that one. Just because he was skilled doesn't mean he was smart, God rest his soul.
6 posted on 10/06/2003 6:47:18 AM PDT by KellyAdmirer
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To: dead
Well, he did go fast.
7 posted on 10/06/2003 6:47:55 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim (Ideas in tagline are closer than they appear.)
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To: dead
Funny how "the best" always seem to be the ones to die. I was at a party when stationed in S. Italy and a biker attended. he was pretty banged up and walked with a cane. Some folks claimed that good ole Butch was the best bike rider they ever knew. All his injuries were from bike accidents. That night, he decided to demonstrate his skills - lost control coming around a bend and ended up doing a header into a chain link fence. Actually bent a pole over with his head (no helmet for the best...). He spent several days in a coma with a lot of bleeding and pressure on the brain before finally going to biker heaven.

So, if "the best" ever offers you a ride, my advice would be to decline.

8 posted on 10/06/2003 6:51:15 AM PDT by trebb
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To: dead
And when he reached the pearly gates, St. Peter said..."We've been expecting you!!!"
9 posted on 10/06/2003 6:52:10 AM PDT by Onelifetogive
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To: trebb
A doctor I knew, every time a motorcycle rider went by, he just smiled and said, "There's another future organ donor."
10 posted on 10/06/2003 6:53:29 AM PDT by KellyAdmirer
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To: dead
Darwni Award winner, in the "most highly skilled" classification.
11 posted on 10/06/2003 6:54:40 AM PDT by Fitzcarraldo
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To: KellyAdmirer; dead
My husband doesn't like heights and as a young boy visited the Royal Gorge. He became so frightened when trying to cross it he actually dropped on all fours and crawled across.

I can't image the wind currents, updrafts etc. that would confront a skydiver in this situation.

Prairie
12 posted on 10/06/2003 6:57:16 AM PDT by prairiebreeze (I'm a monthly donor to FR. And proud of it!)
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To: dead
"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."

Unfortunately, the problem that arose was a railing at 100 MPH.

13 posted on 10/06/2003 7:01:13 AM PDT by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: prairiebreeze
We visited Royal Gorge about 25 years ago. I couldn't even walk out on the bridge. I took a picture of my husband and son standing on it, but as soon as I snapped the picture I made them get off it. THAT'S how scary I thought it was!

Had I been forced to cross it, I would have crawled like your husband.

14 posted on 10/06/2003 7:01:42 AM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: KellyAdmirer
A doctor I knew, every time a motorcycle rider went by, he just smiled and said, "There's another future organ donor."

Emergency room workers call the bikes "donorcycles."

15 posted on 10/06/2003 7:02:55 AM PDT by The_Victor
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To: dead
It's not so much the "falling" that I have a problem with, it's the impact.
16 posted on 10/06/2003 7:06:29 AM PDT by MassExodus
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To: dead
"Known for pushing his extreme sport to the limit,"

I guess he found the limit.

I used to live in Canyon City. That bridge is windy, too.
17 posted on 10/06/2003 7:08:31 AM PDT by ko_kyi
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To: dead
I once saw a program about a group of four or five people who climbed Mt. McKinley so they could hang glide off the top. During the closing credits, it listed when and where they had all subsequently died during other extreme hang gliding attempts. Some people just push the limits beyond human capabilities.

I've ridden to the bottom of the Royal Gorge, traveled on the tram across the canyon, and taken a trip across the bridge. It's is a seriously dangerous place.
18 posted on 10/06/2003 7:12:19 AM PDT by Semi Civil Servant ("Only liberal speech is protected by the Constitution." -- The ACLU)
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To: dead
"Known for pushing his extreme sport to the limit,"

I guess he found the limit.

I used to live in Canyon City. That bridge is windy, too.
19 posted on 10/06/2003 7:14:13 AM PDT by ko_kyi
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To: Semi Civil Servant
I've white water rafted underneath it. Was quite a view from the bottom.
20 posted on 10/06/2003 7:20:31 AM PDT by DeuceTraveler
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To: dead
What? No "Darwin Ping"?

Why should this idiot get a pass?
If her were a southerner, we'd be jumping all over his ass.
21 posted on 10/06/2003 7:28:59 AM PDT by SJSAMPLE
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To: trebb
So true. I'm an auto racing fan and when I started following it in my youth in the 1960s a lot of the best were dying with frightening regularity. The list of best racing drivers who died while racing is long and sad. Dale Earnhardt, Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark, Bruce Mclaren to name a few. These days it seems safety devices have cut the fatalities down but they still occur on occasion.
22 posted on 10/06/2003 7:30:54 AM PDT by xp38
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To: dead

23 posted on 10/06/2003 7:37:13 AM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: dead
Ever notice most thrillseekers like this invariably claim they have an extreme zest for life? Why would anyone who loves life wish to jeopardize it for a mere thrill? To each his own, I guess...
24 posted on 10/06/2003 7:50:48 AM PDT by Mr. Bird
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To: dead
Famous Last Words:

Australian Dwain Weston is One of the world's best BASE jumpers;

Roy is one of the world's best White Tiger trainers;

Barbra Stressand: Governor Davis is one of the nations's best gov's;
25 posted on 10/06/2003 7:57:03 AM PDT by TRY ONE (NUKE the unborn gay whales!)
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To: prairiebreeze
...as a young boy visited the Royal Gorge. He became so frightened when trying to cross it he actually dropped on all fours and crawled across.

Me too. Frightened me beyond belief.

26 posted on 10/06/2003 1:50:55 PM PDT by Charlie OK (If you are a Christian, please drive like one!)
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To: dead

Just walking across a bridge that is over 1000' above the Arkansas river and is almost 75 years old, is risky enough.

27 posted on 10/06/2003 1:57:41 PM PDT by TADSLOS (Right Wing Infidel since 1954)
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