Morgan and I rafted the New River Gorge yesterday during Bridge Day and had a great time. I will post on the trip once we get the photos – we brought a film camera instead of digital so will need to get the photos developed and scanned.
For the time being, I should acknowledge a sad and sobering event that took place while we were there. Brian Lee Schubert, a 66-year old BASE jumping veteran and apparently a pioneer in the sport, died when his chute failed to open until 25 feet prior to impact. Our rafting group was eating our riverside lunch about a quarter mile upstream from the bridge, watching the jumpers, when it happened. Fortunately, Morgan and I were on the upstream side of a large house-sized rock during Schubert’s jump, so we were spared actually witnessing it. Many in our group were eyewitnesses, however. As Morgan and I were eating our sandwiches and basking in the sunshine, the collective gasps and exclamations that we heard from those in our group sitting on the top and downstream side of the boulder told us that something had gone horribly wrong.
One has to be wired a certain way to skydive at all, but Bridge Day jumpers are a unique breed. Not content to simply jump off of the bridge, many ramp up the risk (and resulting adrenaline) factor by throwing in a somerault or back flip, or by jumping in tandem or groups of 3 or 4. While this video clip has a happy ending, it shows just how dangerous it can get.
There is a lot of Bridge Day video out there, but I think this one is particularly insightful. It does a good job at capturing the preparation, reflection, and emotional buildup that leads up to the bravado of the jump itself. I’ve signed many a liability release form in pursuing my weekend warrior activities, but I’ve never had to read the text of the waiver on videotape.
Back to yesterday – after Schubert’s fall, jumping was suspended for about a half hour. After the authorities concluded that there were no adverse weather or site conditions that had contributed to the incident, jumping resumed. My hunch is that Schubert would have wanted nothing less.
Rest in peace Brian. May we all follow your example of pushing our limits and living life to its fullest.