Carroll grad still in Idaho hospital after BASE jumping accident

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (WANE) – A Fort Wayne native and Carroll High School graduate is now stable in an Idaho hospital after a BASE jumping accident Monday evening. He was listed in critical condition Tuesday night and the only update from the hospital was that he was stable Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Twin Falls Sheriff’s Department, around 5:15 p.m. authorities were called to the Perrine Bridge over the Snake River Canyon after two BASE jumpers were injured in a fall.

BASE jumping is an extreme sport where people leap off stationary objects like buildings, bridges or cliffs, deploy a small parachute and glide to the ground. BASE is an acronym that stands for building, antenna, span, and Earth.

Austin Carey, 22, from Fort Wayne was jumping with a Utah man, James Rawe, 24.

Twin Falls Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Lori Stewart said Rawe was standing on Carey’s shoulders preparing to jump from the bridge when Carey lost his balance. Both men fell, but Carey was able to deploy his parachute. During the fall, Rawe somehow became entangled in Carey’s parachute.

“Some witnesses gave us good information. They landed near their intended landing site, but closer to the water. Medics caught a ride on a private boat to get to them as soon as possible. Law enforcement put boats in the water too to get more medics out there,” Stewart said.

Stewart said investigators do not know if Rawe was able to deploy his own parachute.

Both men were semi-conscious when responders arrived. Rawe was taken by boat to a nearby dock where he was then transported to a hospital. He was listed in fair condition Tuesday evening, according to Stewart.

Carey was airlifted to Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise with undisclosed injuries, which is where he remained Wednesday afternoon. Hospital officials told NewsChannel 15 Tuesday night Carey was in critical condition, but could not elaborate on his injuries due to privacy laws.

A Twin Falls newspaper captured  Carey on a stretcher being taken to the helicopter. A witness also submitted pictures of the two falling from the bridge. Click here to see them. 

Stewart said she has not been able to identify Carey as being from Fort Wayne because she has not been able to speak with him. But, they have been able to confirm his name through other people he was with.

Daniel Olivarez, a friend of Carey’s, told NewsChannel 15 early Wednesday morning that Carey was vacationing with friends in Idaho. Olivarez said Carey is an enthusiast for BASE jumping and skydiving and had been pursuing the extreme sports for awhile. Carey’s Facebook and Instagram accounts have dozens of photos of jumps from all over the country. He also has his own YouTube channel with videos of various jumps.

Carey posted on his Instagram account Sunday a self-made video of him jumping from the Perrine Bridge.

Stewart said the Perrine Bridge is one of the few places BASE jumping is legal in the United States. It’s a truss arch bridge that carries U.S. 93 above the Snake River. Dozens of online videos have been posted of jumpers performing various stunts and tricks from the bridge deck.

Jumps from the bridge became popular after a 1974 canyon jump near the bridge by stuntman Evel Knievel, according to Visit Idaho. An Evel Knievel Jump Monument sits to the south of the bridge near a visitor’s center.

“You don’t need permits and it’s open year-round,” Stewart said. “We have hundreds if not thousands of people come here every year from around the world.”

The bridge is 486 feet above the river. That’s about the same height as One Summit Square in downtown Fort Wayne, which is 442 feet tall.

While hundreds jump from the Perrine Bridge every year, Stewart said fatalities and injuries are low.

“Looking at the numbers of BASE jumpers compared to the number of time we’re called out, it’s really a very small percentage. Of course, we recommend any time anyone takes up any recreation that they have the right knowledge and skills and equipment,” Stewart said.

The Twin Falls Sheriff’s Department said in the last five years at least nine incidents have been reported to police after jumps from the bridge. One person died in 2011 from injuries after the parachute failed to fully open. A second person died from hypothermia after jumping at night and was unable to find his way out of the canyon.

“There’s an inherent danger in it. There’s not a lot of room for error. It happens in a matter of seconds from the time they jump to the time they land,” Stewart said.

Stein Edvardsen doesn’t deny that BASE jumping is dangerous. He first started the extreme sport in 1991 and has since done more than 500 jumps from all kinds of bridges, cliffs and buildings.

“When I was a kid, I would dream about flying like a bird. Or Superman, I wanted to be like him,” Edvardsen said.

He first started to skydive and then progressed to BASE jumping. Now the Norwegian is president of Stavanger B.A.S.E. Klubb in Norway. The club was founded in 2000 and organizes transportation, rental gear, security around landing sites and BASE courses for people who want to BASE jump in the area. They do around 3,000 BASE jumps from Kjerag, a mountain that’s become popular for the extreme sport.

“You need to be an experienced skydiver with a minimum of 250 skydives before you are allowed to do the BASE course and jump with us,” Edvardsen said.

In 2007, a study took a look at how dangerous BASE jumping is. It found that out of 20,850 BASE jumps from 1995 to 2005 at Kjerag, there were nine fatalities (0.04 percent of all jumps or one in every 2,317 jumps) and 82 nonfatal accidents (0.4% of all jumps or one in every 254 jumps). The researchers concluded that the risk of injury or death from BASE jumping is 5-8 times higher than that of skydiving.

For comparison, another study in 1999 looked at white water rafting, another “extreme” sport, and found the overall injury rate was 0.263 per 1,000 rafters.

“BASE jumping is getting safer and safer. It’s going in the right direction, even with some serious incidents,” Edvardsen said.

Gear is getting more advanced and specific to the sport, too. In skydiving, he explained, there is a second reserve parachute. In BASE jumping, there is only one parachute, which he said is less that can go wrong, and the “pack job” for the parachute is more like the smaller reserve parachute from skydiving.

“You need to be educated and trained in the right way, though,” Edvardsen said. “Some boys see it on YouTube and on the Internet and it seems easy to jump. A lot of young guys forget there’s years of training behind it.”

Even when he hears of people getting hurt or killed while BASE jumping, Edvardsen said he won’t stop.

“I’ve seen a lot of horrible accidents and lost some friends. I had that thought of should I quit jumping, but it gives me so much joy in life, that I haven’t quit yet,” he said. “It gives a really good feeling afterward when you’ve done that. It’s a huge adrenaline rush.”

Most BASE jumps are from around 500 feet (150 meters) to 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) high. The highest he knows of was a jump off a peak in Switzerland more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) high. 

“Fifty meters (164 feet) is doable with special equipment and technique. Thirty meters (98 feet) is on the edge of the lowest you can do to get the parachute open,” Edvardsen said.

While BASE jumping is illegal nearly everywhere in the United States, other countries embrace the sport. Edvardsen said there are BASE jumping shows in Shanghai, China. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia hosts the world championship of BASE jumping.

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