Thursday, February 13, 2014

BASE jump from gondola at Whistler Blackcomb investigated by police


 Police are investigating after an illegal base jumper allegedly pried open the doors of a Whistler Blackcomb gondola cabin and jumped nearly 1,500 feet with a GoPro strapped to his helmet, causing thousands of dollars of damage in the process. 

The GoPro footage surfaced Tuesday on YouTube as an unlisted clip.

The 4:19-minute clip shows a man and a woman inside a gondola cabin on Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak 2 Peak line. The doors to the cabin can be seen propped and held open forcibly by a metal bar.

The base jumper, whose face is shown only at the end of the video, can be heard checking to make sure his GoPro is filming before exiting the cabin doors and leaping towards Fitzsimons Creek approximately 1,427 feet below.

“I did it! For you, McConkey,” the man can be heard yelling part way through his descent before landing safely in a snow patch.

Shane McConkey, a Vancouver-born professional base jumper and skier, performed a similar stunt in 2008 for a sanctioned event celebrating the opening of the Peak 2 Peak line. McConkey died at age 39 while attempting a stunt in Italy in March 2009.

Base jumpers use a parachute to slow their descents from tall buildings or other heights.

Whistler Blackcomb spokeswoman Michelle Leroux confirmed the incident captured on video took place on Feb. 6 around 3:45 p.m.

“A Whistler Blackcomb patroller and RCMP travelled to the landing zone with the intent to arrest the individual, who was not apprehended despite an extensive search,” she told The Province.

When the cabin arrived at the station, Leroux said, it was taken off the line and inspections showed both the doors and locking mechanisms had been damaged.

“Safety systems prevent the doors from opening on their own,” Leroux explained. “Brute force and mechanical advantage [were] used to open the doors while the gondola was in motion.”

The estimated cost of repairing the doors and locking mechanisms is approximately $10,000.

The woman pictured in the video remained in the gondola cabin and was met by staff when it arrived at the station. She was escorted off the mountain and later questioned by RCMP.

Leroux said the resort is taking measures to prevent copycats.

“At this time, we are not able to disclose what those measures may be, but we are taking this incident very seriously and we will take all action necessary to ensure the safety of our lift systems, and ultimately our guests,” she said.

Leroux also confirmed that the jump caught on video was not the only attempt made. Comments posted to the YouTube video indicated the man in the video had made previous unsuccessful attempts at a base jump from the Peak 2 Peak line.

“Upon further inspection, we did identify damage to the doors of two other cabins that would be consistent with someone trying to pry them open,” Leroux said. “These attempts were not able to overcome the internal locking mechanisms and the integrity of the locks [was] maintained.”

Resort staff are working with the RCMP to press charges against the man responsible for the damages. The stunt caught on camera could bring charges of mischief over $5,000.

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