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NickDG

Number 100 . . .

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I just received word from a contact in South America that I consider reliable. There was a BASE fatality last night (Saturday) from a 250-foot cell phone tower in Brazil. The name (23-year old male) is being withheld and the report didn't make clear what type of jump it was. But it did indicate a problem with the deployment of the pilot chute. I'll wait to update the List until more facts are known, but since this is a sad milestone for us all I thought it important to say something . . .

NickD
BASE 194

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Numbers are only numbers. They do not represent who that person was.
It sounds like we need to get to # 101. So we can get move on and get past this Milestone. In time we will be wondering who # 200 will be. It is only inevitable.
.

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We all have our ways of dealing with death. Some ignore it, while with others it guides their every move. The correct response, I believe, is somewhere in the middle. However, we (all of us) would be remiss if we let this one go by with an, "oh well, that's the way of it," reaction.

My initial reason for my starting the BASE fatalities list was a foolish one – I actually thought we could educate death right out of this sport. In a time when BASE knowledge was limited and full-on BASE gear still some years away – there was a lot to learn. And it seemed, at the time, actually easy to think, what was killing us in those days could be cured with information. But, that didn’t turn out to be true because even as we became smarter we didn’t figure the failings and weaknesses of human nature into the equation.

BASE is such a funny thing when compared to most other endeavors. We all practice the same sport, but we’ve managed to fracture the pursuit into a dizzying array of sub-species. Myself, I’m not an automatic “legal site” fan and I’ve always thought our lack of legal status actually made us safer and more cautious to a certain degree. You see this in the fact that many legal building jump events in countries outside the USA, and other certain high profile events here in the USA, are invitational only. But that horse has left the barn in other places where bridges and cliffs are legal and no one is in charge; and we should try to find new ways to bring prudence back into the game at that level.

One major change, especially at legal sites, is when a death occurs we don’t fully engage the question of why and how to prevent it from happening again. I think we worry more along the lines of, “Okay, time for damage control, as we can’t let “them” shut this site down.”

What happens then is the onus gets dumped squarely on the jumper who’s dead for making the mistake (in order to preserve the site) rather than on the root causes of why it happened in the first place. And I’m not talking about a simple weak toss of pilot chute or a packing error as anyone of us are capable of those things. It about our attitude toward BASE jumping that needs to change – no check that – it needs to evolve.

Look at some of the tag lines to posts on this board – “Go fast and pull low,” – “Let your life speak loud so you don’t have to,” and so many others of that ilk, gee, are we so manipulated by Madison Avenue hogwash like Nikes’ “Just do it,” that it’s become some people’s personal mantras?

There are some now who would never profess to even thinking about safety as it would somehow harm their image. And the sooner we get away from that the better off we’ll all be. Why not, “It’s cool to be schooled,” if it takes a catchy phrase to make sense.

Okay, I’m not talking to all of you, I know better than that after all this time. There’s always been an unreachable percentage of BASE jumpers so forget them – For the rest, the ones capable of open discussion, debate, and dialogue here’s some things I believe would help:

- Ray is right – there’s always going to be the “next” fatality. The important thing is what you do after that. Maybe a personal safety stand-down on an individual basis isn’t a bad idea. During that down time you can re-evaluate your motivations, brush up on basic safety skills, and think hard about what you’re doing. I remember a time when most BASE jumpers were indeed a certain type. They were strong willed, mostly rough around the edges, and determined to BASE jump at all costs. Stand by the launch point at any BASE boogie today and you’ll see a lot of sheep following the heard. (I don’t like the term “sheep” in reference to people but I’m trying hard to make a point). If you aren’t the type that can also walk out to the launch point totally alone and jump – then that should tell you something. If you are on your 30th BASE jump and still need to stand on the edge with your hands up like you’re under arrest that should also tell you something. If you are the type that goes through a grinder of fear and emotion on every launch with the expectation that after landing you’ll feel great, then that’s telling you something.

- I think it may be time to re-evaluate the industry standard of when someone should begin BASE training. (My bosses won’t like this) but I’m convinced that right now that number is too low. What I’m saying is the that the number of previous parachute jumps is important, but maybe not as important as maturity. What number to use? Maybe 500 or 800 or even a thousand – and why – because it’s hard to take when a person who’s 19 years old with 200 jumps overall goes in – and in my mind I can’t help but think the poor soul never had a chance. Would this stop fatalities, no, but at least it would happen to the more experienced ones that are pushing it rather than the very innocent ones who are just trying to keep up.

- Lastly, if you are a skydiver now, and interested in BASE, and if the person who’s helping you says, “Cool, you’re going to love it,” then turn and run as far and as fast as your can back to the DZ. Instead find a mentor that says, “no way, pal,” the first 10 times you ask them for help . . .

- The numbers game – not many will say this but I will. It is OKAY to spend big bucks on a BASE trip and make only one or two jumps. Or even none when the conditions are marginal. The guy you hear boasting about his 8 jumps today, while he may be quite capable at that level, is spitting on the rest of you. Ignore him.

Again, I’m not saying we should institute these things as hard and fast rules – but on an individual level, as a personal set of rules enforced on yourself by yourself it isn’t going to hurt. And maybe, just maybe, prolong your enjoyment and longevity in this world . . .

NickD :)BASE 194

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well said Nick...ive been saying 500 jumps with some caveats to a lot of potentials here in england for some years...some take notice some dont..its quite interesting to see the ethical standards and complete lack of risk comprehension that the nose thumbers have...the uk has twelve newbies at least either in Norway right now or who have done courses so far this year and the numbers are rising..the scary thing is only a few have ever jumped a big seven cell..hardly any have done any crw and the same numbers have over 500 skydives...we have had one fatality here this year that was completely avoidable and god forbid i fear more are coming..

it scares me shitless...

500 jumps should be the bare minimum

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QUOTE: Maybe a personal safety stand-down on an individual basis isn’t a bad idea. During that down time you can re-evaluate your motivations...

Anyone interested in sharing their motivations? I personally wanted to experience an exciting new kind of parachuting while avoiding some of the costs (money & other) of jumping at my home dropzone.

I enrolled in an FJC in Twin Falls, watched Shannon die on Monday and started my course on Tuesday. My motivations had changed some, part of me wanted to experience the rush thinking it must be awesome if guys are back on the bridge the next day, and part of me just wanted to see if I could climb over that railing.

After 7 jumps and one slammer opening I no longer had any motivation left --- the potential costs seemed to exceed the realized benefit of 2+ seconds of freefall and a short canopy ride on a big dog. So I stopped...for now.
Rigger, Skydiver, BASE Jumper, Retired TM

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Nick,
I hope this gets set "sticky" or better yet as an article posted at the top of the forums list. Well said.

-=Raistlin
find / -name jumpers -print; cat jumpers $USER > manifest; cd /dev/airplane; more altitude; make jump; cd /pub; more beer;



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NickD, Sean621,

I am am just starting out, so you might feel you want to ignore what I have to say about setting 'limits' for someone starting out in BASE. I agree that there should be a certain experience level, but I am concerned that people might think that they have reached the magical '150, 200, 500, ...' and they are now ready and safe to do BASE. There is a certain skill level expected once people reach these numbers, however, that is not a given. I am only familiar with the skydiving progression in the UK and USA, and in my opinion it is pretty 'easy' in the USA to progress to your A-license and then get pulled into the freefly&downsize stream of the sport and 'bang out the numbers'. Without getting down to detail, I think that you would agree that mere numbers are not an indicator of experience or mindset. Then again, who are we to judge why someone wants to do BASE? We might worry about the 'bad' publicity and the loss of life and serious injury, but ultimately it is the individual's choice. It sounds like you want to start 'regulating' the sport. We start with jump numbers and maybe we should have assessments before people are 'allowed' to do BASE (so we will all agree to jump only 'official' sites with safety supervisors).
Appollogies, I am starting to get carried away. In summary, I agree with basic recommendations when it comes to giving advice (I got it and I thought it was sound), however, laying down strict and re-enforced rules will, in my opinion, not deter the determined. Again, in my opinion, it would take away most of the 'free choice' that has drawn me to the sport in the first place.
As far as 'fatality' numbers are concerned, it saddens me that the number is remembered rather than the individual. Was the 2000th fatality in Iraq more meaningfull than number 53? No, but it makes a media headline that sells papers and gets viewers to tune in. I have never taken particular notice about the number, but at the individuals background and what lessons I can identify for myself. I am always greatfull for all those that express their views and put them into the 'lessons identified' category. If I should find myself in a similar situation and use any of the advice, it goes to the 'lessons learned' file.

thanks for the penny

MMK

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Tom,

Thanks for response. I fully agree and I have read the documents before I set down along the path. I only raised the comment because, in my opinion, this was not clear in this thread. Additionally, I know from personal experience (addmittedly based only a single case), that some people (well, at least one person) are focused on the 'number' rather than the associated skilles, mindset and reason (for doing BASE). As I said, just my thoughts as I read the thread.

Mick

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...500 jumps should be the bare minimum



From an instructors perspective, there are lots of difficulties with setting a strict minimum jump number.

The biggest one, in my mind, is the other folks who will take a prospective "student" jumping without the pre-requisite experience.

Imagine that you, or I, say "I absolutely will not take a student with less than X jumps."

Joe Doe, our prospective student, falls short of the hard-and-fast minimum. But his friend, Jack Hack, a 50 jump wonder, says "hey, Joe, no problem, I'll take you out and chuck you off stuff right now."

Joe thinks; "hey, that's great, I'm going jumping." And he's off to the races. While he's racing, he possibly learns some bad habits, receives limited or substandard instruction, and then potentially goes in under a catastrophic rigging error.


Now, as a BASE instructor, what do you do about this?

Here are some options:

1) Soundly condemn Jack and Joe, and let them know you think that one or both of them are destined for places on the List.

2) Offer to instruct Joe (with better quality instruction than Jack might provide), right now. This opens up a whole new can of worms. Are you charging for the instruction? What if Jack is offering it for free?

3) Offer to instruct Joe, but only if he completes a set of pre-requisite exercises and skill development. It's likely that the only way that you can get him to jump through all these hoops is to offer the instruction for free when he gets there.

4) Heat up the tar and feather, and try to shut down Jack's activities.


The underlying point is this: If the good instructors refuse to take people without pre-requisite experience (or on some sliding scale), there will always be several "Jacks" who will fill in the gap and lead Joe astray.


It's probably too much to take all comers. But if you make it too hard, you'll find that suddenly all BASE instruction everywhere is being done by 50 jump wonders, and there is no real knowledge transfer, with the blind leading the blind into a phenomenally dangerous situation.

And obviously, when you start offering free instruction, and using that as an inducement for people to develop prerequisite skills, you start running yourself ragged. It's really, really hard to give quality instruction for free on an ongoing basis. Pretty much no one has that much energy.

I've been wondering if one good idea isn't to offer discounts on BASE instruction programs for various prerequisite skills: $50 off if you have more than 50 CRW jumps, $100 off if you have a good mentor committed to helping you when you get home, $50 off if you are a certified rigger, etc, etc.
-- Tom Aiello

Tom@SnakeRiverBASE.com
SnakeRiverBASE.com

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Tom,

Being a 'newbe' who did a FBJC, I have the following comment. People with no or limited BASE experince do understand the $$$ sign. Not only would it give an indication of importance key training objectives, but it would focus on their pre-course training/preparation. Of course that would only apply to those that have the cash to do the course in the first place. I have heard of cases where people said "hey, you have done the course - why dont you tech me?" - no way - I still sweat everytime I pack my rig! The problem is more and more people will get into the sport because of the media exposure (extreme sport). More people will offer courses and more people will cut corners. Bridge Day is a controlled environment and we are allowed to jump once a year. TF offers us this opportuity all year round. It won't take long for the friendly brother/sister hood to tun onto each other if Jack and Joe get abmulanced out on every trip.

In summry, I like the financial incencive 'carrot' - (works for the Army), but cant stop anyone with tarp over their head launchig some freeky bridge flyoff,

Mick

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One major change, especially at legal sites, is when a death occurs we don’t fully engage the question of why and how to prevent it from happening again. I think we worry more along the lines of, “Okay, time for damage control, as we can’t let “them” shut this site down.”

What happens then is the onus gets dumped squarely on the jumper who’s dead for making the mistake (in order to preserve the site) rather than on the root causes of why it happened in the first place. And I’m not talking about a simple weak toss of pilot chute or a packing error as anyone of us are capable of those things. It about our attitude toward BASE jumping that needs to change – no check that – it needs to evolve.



The other factors (apart from site shutdown) that affect this lack of analysis:
- people are concerned that family / friends will be grossly offended if their loved one was deemed to have made a mistake leading to their death. Hence they like to conclude that is was just plain bad luck and the person died what they loved doing.
- on many occasions, there are insufficient or inadequate resources / skills available to truly determine root cause. The evidence may not be adequate for experts to analyse at a later date either. People involved or present will have blurred perceptions of what went on as they may be emotionally scarred by a friend / aquaintance loved one who has just been severaly injured or killed.
- Many jumpers are concerned that their colleague will be branded a loser or failure too. So it is human nature to protect them. Individually, we don't all like to publically admit to our mistakes either. This may be seen as a weakness in our skill sets, which has a counter productive contribution to our ego's.

The above is all opinion and is NOT necessarily true for everyone.

The fact is that we are human and we do make mistakes. Whether we like to admit it or not, virtually all accidents are due in one way or another to human error. The sooner people recognise and accept this, the sooner they can adjust their behaviours and actions such that risk is reduced, skill is increased, and incident rates go down. It is also true to say that there are so many factors that could lead to an accident and that it is extremely difficult to think of and manage all of them, but if you nail the fundamentals, there is much less chance of the one off / "freaky" events occuring.

The other thing that you may not have mentioned is that BASE jumpers as a group tend to be very sensitive about failure. By this I mean that many people in this sport become overly offended if someone says, "you messed up". Bad luck is often used as an answer to what is the root cause of an accident. Hence, any opportunity to analysis and improve is brushed away with this one attitude or comment. "You learn from your mistakes" is one of the most famous cliche's / sayings in history. Why? Because most people believe it and in most cases, it is true. If you don't beleive it, then you are more likely to continue making your mistakes or repeating the mistakes that others have made before you.

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Again, I’m not saying we should institute these things as hard and fast rules – but on an individual level, as a personal set of rules enforced on yourself by yourself it isn’t going to hurt. And maybe, just maybe, prolong your enjoyment and longevity in this world . . .



From personal experience Nick, this attitude of yours just gets you unpopular!!!!!! I know. Because I am. ;) But I am happy to say that there are several individuals that I have assisted in their development which I am truly proud of. It is true that they might think I am a pain in the arse, but they were open enough to understand why I have been saying and what you are saying. They will live longer and prosper. They will mroe that likely acheive at a higher level. There are others whom I have advised to alter their progression rates, attitudes, even participation in the sport - most have gone on to do their own thing because they did not take this advice on board. The end result has been fatalities, major incidents, permanent injury, premature retirement from the sport, etc. They were so focused on the final act / goal, that they lost site of the journey towards that goal.

Giving this type of advice leads to ridicule / back stabbing / etc. But it is necessary. Because those that are intelligent enough to understand the underlying reasoning do take it on board, and they end up living and making positive contributions to the sport and society in general.

Hence, we all have a choice. Learn, progress, achieve. OR Achieve (if you are lucky).
Stay Safe - Have Fun - Good Luck

The above could be crap, thought provoking, useful, or . . But not personal. You decide.

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Numbers are only relevant as a screening tool for people you have no idea about. They should NEVER be used as the only selection criteria for prospective BASE jumpers. There are people with 1000 jumps, no packing skills, no seven cell experience, no incidents that they have had to deal with, etc. There are people with 100 jumps who can pack their reserves, CRW, accuracy, cutaway, etc experience that would be more suited.

How do you get into one of Tom Aiello's courses? Meet the multiple criteria that he has set. There are other places that only ask for numbers. Who has better risk management? I vote for Tom.

What is crucially important in BASE jumping (and most other things in life) is a logical and controlled development of fundamental skills PRIOR TO - NOT DURING attempting higher risk activities.

Roll, drag, crawl, walk, run, fly!!!!!! Don't run first!!!!!
Stay Safe - Have Fun - Good Luck

The above could be crap, thought provoking, useful, or . . But not personal. You decide.

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Regarding your comments on regulation, here are my thoughts.

I am neither for or against it at an institutional / group / society level.

HOWEVER,

it should be, no it MUST BE absolutely mandatory on an individual level.

Every jumper SHOULD regulate themselves.

Not doing this is an utterly selfish, anti - societal act.

Why? Look at the repercussions of when you go in.
- your family loses one of their loved ones. As do your friends, colleagues, society, etc.
- the sport has to endure another loss of one of it's breathren.
- the people who are trying so hard to keep people safe are constantly being slapped in the face and their work is not being heeded or respected.
- there are flow on affects related to the sports image.
- we DO lose site access. This is real. It is like an endangered species being wiped out. It's great to look at the pictures and video's but NOTHING beats the real thing. Building demo's have been stopped a/c accidents, site access to well known jump areas has been made illegal and punishable, security has been increased immensely on many sites, etc, etc, etc.
- the whole productivity of society is affected whenever someone dies. It takes time effort and money to replace some of the skills and experiences that many jumpers possess.

It is one thing to make an attempt on Mt Everest and die in the pursuit of a goal that you have worked extremely hard for over a long period of time.It is another to make the decision and just go for it without the preparation. The first person commands some degree of respect, etc. The second is the type that makes the authorities make it harder for everyone else to get access to the Mountain. It is lazy, sloppy, unprofessional, selfish, etc.

BASE is the same. Do the work, then do the jumps.

Doing the work is what I am referring to when I talk about self - regulation.

You are an adult capable of collecting information, opinion, etc, and making a reasonable decision based on that. You are also capable of doing the right thing (training, techniques, risk, equipment, etc). If you choose not to, you are not self-regulating. If you stuff up, and someone else stuff's up, and then someone else . . . . . .


Finally the non-jumping parts of society will get the shits and introduce institutionalised regulation up to and including the level of banning the activity.

Hence, it is in EVERYONE's interest if each BASE jumper regulates what they do.
Stay Safe - Have Fun - Good Luck

The above could be crap, thought provoking, useful, or . . But not personal. You decide.

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From personal experience Nick, this attitude of yours just gets you unpopular!!!!!! I know. Because I am.



I see that your being sarcastic, yet I can tell it irks you to confront this. Being the 'safe man' or the 'parent' of a group is UNCOOL. I abhorred my parents, some teachers, etc. I had the "They were not "cool", "what the fuck do they know?" attitude. Growing older ( a little) and wiser (even less so) I have appreciated those who have learned and passed on, not as authoritative, but educational experiences and insight on our sport.

So Tom, Nick,
Thank You for putting up with little BASE brats like me for more years than I've seen nylon over my egotistical head.

Nic Russell

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The guidelines are out there, the information is out there, the instruction is out there, the right equipment is out there, the collective wisdom is out there. If people choose to ignore all or any of the available assets, then there is little anyone can do and we should really think long and hard before we try and regulate to save people from themselves. It IS a slippery slope as NickDG has pointed out in the past (which is why i am a tad surprised at his suggestion to regulate more but i dare say i have misunderstood him) and to paraphrase Leia talking to Peter Cushing's Character in Star Wars

"The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Skydiving is a great sport but it's in a regulatory downward spiral as far as i am concerned. That's a helter skelter that is very difficult to get off, so why get on it.

Legal BASE seems to be the stumbling block, because from where i'm standing, no amount of fatalities or adverse press coverage is going to prevent me from finding new and devious ways of getting on, and then off, the endless supply of non legal jumpable objects we have at our disposal.

And yes i said endless; in the respect that by the time i have crossed off all the objects on my hit list, there will be another bunch going up somewhere just ready to go.

If Legal BASE is the price we have to pay to remain non-regulated, then i will not bat an eye for a single moment when it slips off into oblivion. Legal base is a luxury: non-regulation is a necessity! BASE without legal objects works just fine, BASE without freedom from regulation just does not.

I vote we provide care for those who care. and let the others take their chances head on with gravity. BASE is self regulatory in it's absolute nature. Even if you show it the respect it deserves, it CAN kill you, so for those who show no respect, it's simply a matter of time and probability.

Harsh. No. Impact is harsh.

ian

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I've been wondering if one good idea isn't to offer discounts on BASE instruction programs for various prerequisite skills: $50 off if you have more than 50 CRW jumps, $100 off if you have a good mentor committed to helping you when you get home, $50 off if you are a certified rigger, etc, etc.



I didn't think people paid for your course Tom? Or are you talking generally? Whatever, it's an interesting idea. Could you end up paying people to take your course? :-)

However, I think this will completely pass by the people who are in most need of the extra skills. With the prevelance of paying courses these days, and the ease of getting on one, there is the "money no object" mind-set of those in too much of a hurry to take the time to develop the skills that are going to save their lives.
Skydiving Fatalities - Cease not to learn 'til thou cease to live

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In addition

here's how i'd approach that if i were a person looking to fast track it into BASE.

Cost of doing 50 Crw jumps with instruction plus maybe kit hire and travel to and from the dropzone = $1000 at least. Penalty to not have these on FJC = $50 (or even $500). Result = Bargain to not do them. Same goes for jump numbers, riggers ratings, etc.

Cost to acquire them far outweighs the penalty for not. Therefore not really an incentive.

At the end of the day, the only real incentive for anyone to acquire these skills is the incentive to stay alive and unbroken. If that isn't enough incentive then i fear you're pissing in the wind with financial ones.

ian

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