Skydiving Tragedy Alerts Clubs to Extreme Hazards
By Express News Service | Published: 01st February 2014 08:18 AM |
In a spine-chilling incident, a Bangalore woman fell to her death when she sky-dived from 10,000 feet at a temporary facility set up by the Indian Skydiving and Parachute Association (ISPA) at Salem in Tamil Nadu.
Ramya (26) was taking lessons with her husband Vinoth, who could do nothing but watch the gruesome tragedy unfold before his eyes. Reportedly, no medical support was at hand.
In 2009, a 25-year-old marine engineer G Bhargava, also fell to his death as he attempted a reverse bungee-jump near Bannerghatta at an adventure sport gala organised by Centre for Adventure and Rejuvenation of Environment (CARE).
The New Indian Express had reported that the organisers did not have permission from the police, PWD, fire and emergency services and the sports and youth services department to run the show. Safety measures were also absent.
High risk sport
In the city of adventure sports enthusiasts, have no lessons been learned? Neeraj Malve, founder, Bangalore Mountaineering Club, puts it matter-of-factly when he says, “Accidents can happen as it is an extreme, high risk sport.” Set up in 2004, Bangalore Mountaineering Club organises a slew of adventure activities, including sky-diving.
The club has a sky diving camp currently on in Mysore. “If there is any problem with our parachutes, we cancel bookings as it is a question of human life. Any accident like this is a big concern for all of us as adventure sports is at stake,” Malve adds.
Elaborating on the safety measures, Malve adds, “A parachute is designed to take care of every scenario. Every parachute has a second parachute, apart from an automatic activation device. It is really surprising how Ramya’s did not open.”
Usually, a pilot, a guide and an instructor are in the drop zone. A big crew with two or three packers and retrievers and a photographer, who is also a certified diver, are present to help anyone in distress.
Malve is now in favour of the many checks and permissions the government has put in place. He believes the authorities should check whether certified instructors are on the spot, and also whether the equipment is in order.
“Indians tend to overuse equipment even after they are time-barred. Five years ago, when bungee jumper Bhargava jumped to his death in Bangalore, it was because of his harness that had been overused,” he explains.
Raj Kumar too can’t over-emphasise the need to double check safety measures. The online driving instructions to reach Dirt Mania, of which he is founder-CEO, warns clients to ease their speeds as they approach Kanakapura Main Road that leads to Dirt Mania.
Quad biking and paintballing are the major attractions here and though they don’t involve danger like sky-diving, Kumar feels abundant caution is still called for.
That is simply because people react differently even after being well-instructed. “Some people get so excited that they forget what they have just been told. A quad bike, for instance, is a high, narrow four-wheel drive which is easy to balance. But when taking turns on the track, you have to bend in the direction of the turn. People often forget this and fall.”
He has noticed women panic when they go off-course. Instead of braking, they accelerate. “We have placed tyres along the track to not only help people stay on track but also to prevent any accident. Before clients get on to the bike, they are compulsorily made to wear a helmet and pads for the shoulder, elbow, chest and knee,” he says.
Since it has been the experience of the team at Dirt Mania that people speed even though warned, boys stand at bends to ask riders to slow down. The group uses walkie-talkies to warn boys about speeding participants.
Of course, not everyone takes to the measures kindly. “There are always those who complain about us trying to cut down speeds. There are those who will want to take off their helmets,” he says.
Helmets and protective gear are particularly important in paintballing. “If you take off your mask, you can risk losing your eye, since the gun can be very powerful. If there is a young crowd, we completely reduce the power. Also, a referee stays in the arena,” he adds.
People interested in skydiving undergo a two-day rigorous training, but some say that is not enough (see box on movie stunt). Skydivers have two options: the static line jump from 3,000 feet and the stand-up jump from 10,000 feet.
Skydiving camps are usually held when visibility and good wind conditions are good. Equipment is usually manufactured in Europe. Each parachute may cost Rs 4-5 lakh and its shelf life depends on the brand and make. A parachute is used for five jumps a day, in the allotted time of, say, 10 am to 4 pm.