THE internationally-renowned base jumper who crashed on Table Mountain, suffering severe leg injuries, could now face charges for attempting the illegal jump.
American Jeb Corliss, 35 – who is in intensive care in a city hospital – has gained an international reputation for completing more than 1 000 successful base jumps around the world.
Base jumpers freefall until, just before landing, they open their parachute.
Base is an acronym for the surfaces from which one can jump: building, antenna, span (bridge), and earth.
Corliss has jumped off far-flung locations such as the Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Falls in Venezuela, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and into a cave in Tianmen Mountain in China.
He has also been known to push both physical and legal boundaries – an attempted jump off the Empire State Building in New York resulted in his arrest after he failed to get the necessary permission.
But yesterday, when attempting the feat off Table Mountain, he clipped a rock, tumbling 60m into Contour Path.
Corliss had been jumping with fellow American adventurer, Joby Ogwyn – the youngest person to climb Mount Everest at the age of 24. The men had previously completed the Table Mountain jump last week for a television special on American network HBO.
Speaking from his hospital bed in ICU at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Corliss relayed a spirited message through the hospital’s marketing officer, Michelle Norris. “I feel better than I’ve ever felt,” he quipped.
His friend Ogwyn, who had waited for Corliss at the base of the mountain after the fall, said he was not sure what had caused the accident.
“It could have been a strange gust of wind, it could have been that he got too close to the mountain.”
But Table Mountain National Park is not taking the matter lightly. Spokeswoman Merle Collins said: “The danger associated with base jumping does not allow us to issue permits. He did not have permission. We will definitely fine him and possibly press charges.”
She said base jumping could impact negatively on mountain safety. She had already received
calls from would-be jumpers requesting a permit. She said a man had phoned her asking how Corliss got a permit.
“He said he had applied for one and was denied, so he couldn’t understand why Corliss was allowed to jump,” Collins said.
“He was absolutely not allowed to jump. It is worrying to me because people may think they can do this now without permits.
“He is very, very lucky to have his life.”
Wilderness Search and Rescue field manager Anwaaz Bent said they sometimes saw base jumping injuries on Table Mountain.
“But the jumpers are highly trained and skilled athletes,” he said.
The crash-landing, however, is unlikely to deter Corliss.
He has been training for years to become the first person to jump out of a helicopter without a parachute.
Many base jumpers wear wingsuits – full bodysuits with fabric surfaces between the legs and under the arms.
The extreme sport is growing globally, with about 1 500 certified base jumpers, despite the dangers involved.
A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found one fatality for every 60 base jumpers in 2002.
Last year, base jumping was in the spotlight when a jumper was arrested after jumping off Chapman’s Peak. He was given a R500 fine after an altercation with SANParks rangers.
Many national parks, like Table Mountain, have banned the sport because of the fatality risk.