Two BASE jumpers injured in 500-foot fall into Idaho canyon

SALMON, Idaho Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:01pm EDT

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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Two men were hospitalized after plunging nearly 500 feet into an Idaho canyon in the latest of a spate of accidents in the extreme sport known as BASE jumping, authorities said Tuesday.

The incident at Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls on Monday came just a day after a man died in Utah's Zion National Park trying to BASE jump, a dangerous derivative of sky-diving in which participants leap from cliffs, high buildings or other structures while wearing parachutes.

The Idaho jumpers, James Rawe, 24, and Austin Carey, 22, slipped off a bridge over the canyon and became entangled in their parachute, said Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lori Stewart.

"It's amazing they survived the jump," said Stewart. "There had to have been some drag from the chute."

Carey was air-lifted to a hospital in Boise, where he was listed in serious condition on Tuesday, officials said. Rawe was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was in fair condition.

The pair, who live in Utah, were trying to perform a feat called a two-man jump, with Rawe standing on his partner's shoulders when Carey lost his footing on the bridge, Stewart said.

Carey's parachute deployed during the descent, entangling the men but likely slowing their descent, she said. They landed on rocky ground alongside the river, and rescuers raced to the scene in boats.

BASE jumping entails leaping from a fixed point like a bridge, building or cliff using a parachute or wearing special flying apparel called a wingsuit, which if all goes well, allows a jumper to glide to the ground.

The sport has claimed at least three lives in Utah alone in the past two months.

Tom Aiello, a BASE jumping instructor in Twin Falls, said Perrine Bridge, where Rawe and Carey fell, is popular among those who engage in the sport because it is one of the relatively few manmade structures where BASE jumping is legal.

About 500 people a year jump from the bridge, which spans the Snake River where it winds through a sheer gorge in southern Idaho, Aiello said.

Aiello said the sport has gained more enthusiasts in recent years because of equipment improvements that reduce risks and because of interest generated by videos of jumps posted on the Internet.

"It's different than 15 or 20 years ago when you had guys sneaking around a building in urban areas at three in the morning trying not to be arrested," he said.

"Today, the nature of the sport has changed and so has the nature of participants. They are more mainstream and not as interested in breaking into a skyscraper."

Aiello said Idaho, Utah and other Western mountain states are favored by BASE jumpers because of mostly unregulated access to landscape features like cliffs and canyons.

Last week, a 35-year-old man died in a BASE jumping accident after attempting a jump from a cliff west of Moab in southeastern Utah, authorities said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)

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