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The Victoria Falls Bungee Jump Accident: An Opinion About Extreme Sports

Posted By adventureswithben On January 8, 2012 @ 11:28 pm In Adventure,Africa,Health & Safety,Zambia,Zimbabwe | Comments Disabled

 The Victoria Falls Bungee Jump Accident: An Opinion About Extreme Sports

[UPDATE 1/10/11 8:30 A.M. EST - There is a twitter account (possibly) established by Safari Par Excellence [2]. Follow them at @SafParZambia [3] Their name has been in the news, attached to the accident, but they book all kinds of African Tours, don't operate any of them. I think if they had a Facebook and Twitter account ahead of time, they could have minimized the press they are getting. A lesson to all companies out there - if you don't engage in social media, you'll regret it later when you need it.]

[UPDATE 1/10/11 6:00 A.M. EST - The Tour Operator (Safari Par Excellence) that booked the jumper has released a statement [4] sharing that they only book jumpers on tours and do not operate the jump. So travelers should consider this piece of information when deciding to book future tours with them.

Additionally, a statement from the Bungee Operator has also been made public. It outlines the safety measures that have been taken since the incident. You can read the full statement here [5]. But a portion of the safety measures now implemented include:

  • Removal of all bungee cords used from the same rubber batch as the failed one.
  • New, additional, daily checks on the cords.
  • The additional of crew jumps to test the cord throughout the day.
  • A check of the failed cord in South Africa.
  • A river guide stationed below the bridge equipped with recovery equipment and trained in first aid.
The release also went on to share that this is their first incident in 17 years of operation.]
***** ORIGINAL STORY *****
I have also deleted comments here on the site from an individual who claimed they were from the Bungee Jump Operator as they turned out to be posted from someone else not from the company. So if you read them earlier, they are not true. I have been in contact with the actual Bungee Operator and have confirmed, to the best of my ability, that these comments were false.]

One of the top stories in the travel world this weekend was an accident that took place at the Victoria Falls Bungee Jump. An Australian Traveler did as thousands of jumpers before her did at this high profile adventure destination and when she was 60 feet above the water, the bungee cord snapped, sending her down into the Zambezi River beneath her.

Most fortunately she survived, was able to swim to shore and has, what appears to be, a few bruises and a harrowing story to tell the rest of her life. You can see the full interview, including her fall on the BBC Website [6].

It was 2010 when I made my trip to Victoria Falls and did the same jump [7] as she. And at the time, I was strongly debating whether or not to do it myself [8]. Many travelers encounter this same moment. Ryan Lile, from Savvy Traveler, also made a trip to the falls once. And upon hearing about another prior incident made the decision to change his plans [9]. With regards to this most recent incident, the Zambian government is assuring travelers that the bungee jump is safe [10]. But is it enough to quell the fears of travelers – and more importantly, is the Victoria Falls Bridge Bungee Jump safe enough for jumpers?

The Other Side of Extreme Sports

 The Victoria Falls Bungee Jump Accident: An Opinion About Extreme Sports [11]

With over 500 articles on this blog, several dozen fall into the category of extreme activities: Walking with Lions [12], Hang Gliding over Florida [13]SCUBA Diving with Sharks [14], Zip Lining in Thailand, [15] Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge [15], and most recently, Skydiving at 18,000 Feet [16]. And with each of these posts, I encourage you, my readers, to seek out that adventure. To conquer your fears, sign every waiver imaginable and just do it. Chances are, you’ll walk away just fine and have nothing but a feather in your cap. And I still do believe this. But don’t embark foolishly of course – allow me to explain.

Tips for Evaluating Extreme Sports

The “What if” is a powerful motivator in opting out of extreme sports. There’s always an excuse. They are easy to conjure. Risk-taking is simply that, taking a risk. My strategy is to take as educated of a risk as possible. What do I mean by that? Here’s what I consider whenever I embark on an adventure activity…

1. Research Ahead of Time

It’s really tough to properly research many of these types of activities. I google search the tour operator to find stories of people who did it and loved and hated it (Of course any personal accounts shouldn’t be taken as absolute – including my own – but any negative experiences should raise a warning flag). I try to find recent news articles about their business practice. Is the operator new or well-established? What’s their safety record? I also evaluate the sport ahead of time.  What can I expect and how does the sport work? What safety measures are customary? I never jump (literally) into anything without knowing what to expect first – as best I can. In the case of Ryan’s example above, he did the right research and made the right decision at the time.

2. Evaluate the Scene Before You Begin

Never go first! I want to watch others go before me. I study the behaviors of the tour operator, learn the sequence of events and survey the equipment. If anything looks suspicious, I decline. If it doesn’t match up to the research I’ve done ahead of time, I start to ask questions (step 3). Despite my adrenaline-seeking self, I’ll never go on carnival rides. They are put together in a hot second, have operators who barely pay attention to the ride’s operation and there are just too many, too frequent stories of accidents at carnivals. All signs point to NO GO.

3. Ask Lots of Questions

 I have a reputation of asking a lot of questions. I’m often compared to a 6-year old who nags you all the time with questions that always start with “why”. I do it for my own curiosity for sure, but I’m really testing the competency of my tour operator. I want to know if they can answer with authority and knowledge, provide an answer that makes rational sense and most importantly, pick up onto the fact that I’m displaying a nervous behavior and offer some encouraging words of advice and additional safety assurances. Don’t be shy to ask questions. It’s your life, not their’s.

4. You Can Always Say No

At any point, you can always back out. You can always say “no”. Yes, in most cases you’ll lose your deposit that you paid for that extreme sport, but in the long-term you won’t notice the loss in cash.

But What About the Victoria Falls Bungee Accident?

 The Victoria Falls Bungee Jump Accident: An Opinion About Extreme Sports [17]

At the end of the day, all of your exhaustive research can turn up nothing that raises an eyebrow. And on the day of your jump, everything can go as smooth as silk. Clearly, that must have been the case from the perspective of the Australian jumper.

Sometimes accidents happen.

It’s impossible to know, right now at least, what exactly happened in this accident. Clearly the equipment was at fault, but did it pass it’s most recent inspection? Was that recent inspection… recent? What about operator error? Maybe it just… broke.

Until an exhaustive investigation is complete, and the bungee operator has regained a safer track record, I’d be concerned about doing this jump with them. But this shouldn’t steer you away from other bungee jump outfitters. Accidents can happen anywhere: Driving to work, walking around the block or cooking in our own kitchen. And to be quite honest, I’m more nervous driving than anytime else. I can control my vehicle, but I can’t control (or watch out for) every other car on the road. And I understand the statistics for driving accidents generally support this. Driving is more dangerous than many other activities.

It’s when operators are careless or reckless that should be our cause for concern in the world of extreme sports. When our gut tells us things aren’t right, we should listen to our gut. But every time I’ve stepped up to indulge in these extreme moments, my gut has told me everything will be okay.

What Now?

 The Victoria Falls Bungee Jump Accident: An Opinion About Extreme Sports [18]

I would really enjoy to hear from the traveler who was the recipient of this sad and tragic event, and get her perspective on the day and her future outlook on these types of activities. Until then, Sarah Millar, an editor for the Australian Paper the Herald Sun who also made the Vic Falls jump a few weeks after I did, explained it this way [19]

“I don’t think I’d ever do it again, but I think I would have regretted not doing it.”

And in many ways, that’s how I feel too. There are many sports I won’t do again, for the simple fact they weren’t as exciting or fun as I thought. But I’m glad that I did them – and most certainly would have regretted not doing them.
If fear of injury or death is your motivator for avoiding extreme sports, there’s probably a list of things you do everyday that are much more dangerous.We perceive these activities as more dangerous than they are, because they are not “normal” to us. My skydiving instructor had made more than 12,000 jumps before jumping with me. His “normal” is jumping out of planes 14 times/day.
Extreme sports are safer than you think, but don’t make foolish decisions or short-change your investigation up front.

What are your thoughts about this bungee jump accident? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Share by commenting.

I’ll see you out there…!

Oh and by the way, there’s a debating going on amongst some Facebook friends of mine who live in Zambia regarding the newspaper’s account of the chilly and crocodile-infested waters that the jumper fell into. Apparently, some believe the rapids are too strong at that point in the river for crocodiles to make it their home and the water in the summer (Vic Falls is in the Southern Hemisphere) is warmer than you’d think. So while it’s undeniable that the cord snapped and this jumper had a really bad day, the sensationalism that the media contributes to stories like these, further reinforce our fear that things are probably worse than they really are.

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URL to article: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/victoria-falls-bungee-jump-accident-lesson/

URLs in this post:

[1] : http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/victoria-falls-bungee-jump-accident-lesson/

[2] Safari Par Excellence: http://www.safpar.net/

[3] @SafParZambia: https://twitter.com/#!/safparzambia

[4] statement: http://www.safpar.net/Safari-Par-Excellence-press-statement-9-January-2012.pdf

[5] here: http://www.safpar.net/Victoria-Falls-Bungee-Agent-Release-9-January-2012.pdf

[6] the BBC Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16459489

[7] did the same jump: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/victoria-falls-activity-2/

[8] strongly debating whether or not to do it myself: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/bungee-jump-victoria-falls/

[9] made the decision to change his plans: http://www.savvytravel.net/2012/01/is-the-victoria-falls-bungee-jump-safe/

[10] the Zambian government is assuring travelers that the bungee jump is safe: http://www.lusakatimes.com/2012/01/05/bungee-jumping-equipment-safe-weekend-accidentlubinda/

[11] Image: http://adventureswithben.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/IMG_9264.jpg

[12] Walking with Lions: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/lion-encounter/

[13] Hang Gliding over Florida: http://adventureswithben.com/orlando/hang-gliding-florida-bet/

[14] SCUBA Diving with Sharks: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/scuba-diving-sharks-great-barrier-reef/

[15]  Zip Lining in Thailand,: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/flight-gibbon/

[16] Skydiving at 18,000 Feet: http://adventureswithben.com/adventure/skydiving/

[17] Image: http://adventureswithben.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/BungeeUpsideDown.jpg

[18] Image: http://adventureswithben.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/GorgeBridge.jpg

[19] explained it this way: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/the-bungee-jump-at-victoria-falls-is-the-craziest-thing-ive-ever-done/story-e6frfhqf-1226239824527

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