73-year-old base jumper dies after setting parachute on fire

2015-05-20 10:13

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Twin Falls - Authorities say a 73-year-old base jumper who died after leaping from an Idaho bridge had set his parachute on fire as part of a stunt.

A graphic video of the fatal jump, posted to YouTube on Monday, shows someone engulfed in flames and falling from the Perrine Bridge into the Snake River, 150m below.

Watch the video below

James E Hickey had apparently planned to ditch the flaming parachute and deploy a second chute in the May 7 stunt.

Professional BASE jumper Sean Chuma told Twin Falls newspaper The Times-News that he had heard Hickey successfully performed the stunt skydiving.

The initial report from the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office said only that Hickey's parachute deployed too late.

The video shows two base jumpers climbing over the railing of the Perrine Bridge and leaping at about the same time.

But while one jumper glides safely away underneath a parachute, the other becomes engulfed in a fireball and falls quickly out of view.

Increased scrutiny

The video pans back to the river just after the burning jumper hits the water. A boat arrives seconds later, and the video ends.

A coroner's report said Hickey, of Claremont, California, died of blunt force trauma.

Base jumping has come under increased scrutiny as at least five people have died in accidents since January, including two last week at Yosemite National Park.

The acronym "BASE" stands for building, antenna, span and earth, the types of places from which jumpers leap. It's illegal in many places but allowed year-round without a permit at the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.

Bat-like gear

Hundreds of people jump from the bridge every year, and injuries are common.

On March 9, 32-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia, resident Bryan Turner died after jumping from the bridge because his parachute didn't open properly.

A week after Hickey's death, Carla Jean Segil of Big Bear, California, had to be rescued after her chute got tangled up in the support structure under Perrine Bridge. The 26-year-old dangled for about a half hour before she could be pulled to safety.

Dean Potter, 43, and Graham Hunt, 29, were jumping illegally from a cliff in Yosemite when they both hit the rocks and died last week. The men were wearing wingsuits, bat-like gear intended to allow them to glide to a safe landing.

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