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BASE Jumping: Articles: Stories: Twenty Six Years

Twenty Six Years

by Nick Di Giovanni

By Nick Di Giovanni

Yes, it was BD 1989, and it was the first time jumping is called off since BD began.

This was probably Jean Boenish’s toughest year as BD Organizer, and, I believe, greatly influenced her decision to hand off organizing duties to Andy Calistrate two years later.

The reasons for the cancellation, in order of priority are, the pick-up boats could not stay on station in the swift river conditions and therefore would not participate, the very high water levels, and, as I recall, it was very windy, and the air and water temperatures are very cold.

It’s odd, but none of tourist orientated BD web sites mention this fact while they do acknowledge the later BD that’s cancelled for security concerns right after 9/11. I suppose they don’t want to give would-be visitors the idea the chances of seeing BASE jumpers (what they really come for) can be dependant on the conditions.

However, the situation in ‘89 is a very odd one. Friday night in Jean’s hotel room the staff is already discussing the deplorable conditions and what it would mean in terms of safety. (The conditions are the worst ever seen, and in light of all BDs before or since, the conditions could rightly be termed freakish.)

The debate among the staff ranged from some saying hard-core experienced BASE jumpers could handle these conditions, while others argued no one could handle conditions like these. The real concern, however, is the first time BASE jumpers. In those days the ratio between experienced jumpers and first timers is more heavily weighted towards first timers. By evening’s end Jean is leaning toward calling it off, but we all went to sleep to see what conditions morning would bring.

The conditions Saturday morning are a bit better, but still bad. Yet, there is a slight chance that conditions might improve later in the day. Now is when things started to come to a boil. Some of the most experienced are howling about not being able to jump, and even some of the non-experienced are doing the same. I remember one first timer saying he had 3000 skydives and could easily make the jump. Ugh!

Then things got worse. The Park Service comes to Jean and wants her to sign for and except the permit to land on park property. Slowly it dawned on us the Park Service didn’t want any part in canceling the jumping. We thought the reasons are either they don’t want any grief from a townspeople that profits greatly from BD, or, and this is the prevailing idea, they wanted enough carnage to take place so they could shut down jumping forever.

Jean is in a tight spot. Finally, at about 11:00 AM she gathered the jumpers and announced she would not be accepting the permit and the jumping portion of Bridge Day ’89 is cancelled. It’s now a splinter group of jumpers emerges and says they will accept the permit. However, legalities, the permit is made out in Jean’s name, prevents that.

About fifty jumpers did brave the conditions and made bandit jumps to the cheers of the spectators. Many opted for the RR tracks, and many received citations from both Rangers and Railroad officials. One jumper crashed through the windshield of a Ranger’s private vehicle that’s parked near the landing area. To his credit, that jumper made good on that by later sending the Ranger a personal check for something like $1200.

And that’s the way it was, Bridge Day 1989.

(Or, at least, the way I remember it.)

Submitted by Nick Di Giovanni on 2007-06-19

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3 out of 5 stars May have been a while ago, but it seems the Park Rangers attitude hasn't changed much. Always looking for a way to benefit their ridiculous position, no matter what the personal cost to anyone else. If someone had been seriously injured or worse, they would have thrown up their arms and said" See we told you so." What a bunch of hypocrites! They benefit from our success and our tragedy. Maybe someday they can all graduate from mall security school and get a job that actually benefits something(besides themselves) in a positive manner. What a pathetic bunch! These spineless creeps need to be exposed. The base jumpers need to unite and boycott BD and expose these useless pieces of DNA for who they really are.Pay Jason for his time(He shouldn't be punished for all his hard work!) but, don't pay for the permit and let everyone from the networks that cover it to the locals that bring their goodies to sell that we simply won't be part of this ridiculous farce. We'd only have to do it once.

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