Speed-Flying accident - ZA

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Speed-Flying accident - ZA

Student crashes into cliff
13 September 2007, 06:21
By Caryn Dolley

In an attempt to win R50 000 for charity, a 20-year-old Rhodes University student fell 30 metres and crashed into a cliff on Table Mountain on Tuesday while he was being filmed base jumping.

Alexis McNaughton jumped from near the top of Table Mountain, hit a cliff and landed on a ledge on upper Platteklip Gorge, injuring his back and legs. Base (buildings, antenna, span or bridges, and earth) jumpers freefall for a few seconds before opening their parachutes. McNaughton's friend, who had been with him when he started climbing the mountain, said they had been doing a class project. "We were helping him. He was trying to enter a charity competition to win R50 000 and we had to film him jumping," she said.

Late on Tuesday night rescuers battled rain and plummeting temperatures as they walked from the bottom of the mountain to reach him. They carried him to the cable car, brought him down the mountain and transported him to hospital.
Before sunset an SA Air Force Oryx helicopter had winched five rescuers to an area below where the student had landed, but it had to turn back when thick mist prevented it from getting closer to the injured man. The Metro Red Cross AMS helicopter had also winched two rescuers, including a doctor, on to the mountain but the sturdier Oryx had to be called in because of the wind and mist.
McNaughton's parents, Paul and Sue, and a number of friends, stood for hours anxiously watching as rescuers tried in vain to bring him off the mountain by helicopter. They said they did not want to comment until McNaughton was safe. Earlier his friend, who did not want to be named, spoke to him by cellphone to explain what rescuers were doing.

Shortly after the accident, McNaughton wrapped himself in his red parachute and, despite his injuries, managed to wave to the rescuers at the bottom of the mountain. They had initially struggled to spot him.

McNaughton was a member of the EP Skydivers in Grahamstown and had skydived more than 150 times, a friend said. "But base jumping from a mountain is a completely different thing," he said.

In March two years ago, Karl Hayden, an experienced base jumper, suffered multiple fractures when he jumped from near the upper cableway station and his parachute did not open properly.

Hayden said he had jumped from different parts of Table Mountain a few hundred times, and the extreme sport was very dangerous. He emphasized only "extremely experienced" skydivers should attempt it.

"(Yesterday's) weather conditions weren't appropriate for a base jump. It would've been better for paragliding," he said.

'I was in trouble when I hit the first rock'
13 September 2007, 18:14

"I thought I was going to die," said the 19-year-old extreme sport enthusiast who amazingly survived a 30 metre fall down Platteklip Gorge, suffering only a few minor scrapes and bruises.

Alexis McNaughton, an economics student at Rhodes University, spoke to the Cape Argus from his bed at Christiaan Barnard Memorial hospital this morning after his "speed-flyer stunt" went horribly wrong. McNaughton, complete with a video camera taped to his head, launched off Table Mountain in an attempt to win a radio competition for the craziest thing one would do for R50 000.
"I took all necessary precautions but made a judgment error and didn't build up enough speed before I launched," he said.

"I have been (base) jumping since I can remember. But this was my first big accident."

McNaughton said he was shocked as he headed straight for the ground.

"I was in trouble when I hit the first rock ... I tumbled and tumbled a bit more, and woke up only 20 minutes later not knowing where I was," he said.

McNaughton said he was woken up by a telephone call from his classmates who had been filming his jump.

Dr John Roos, head of Wilderness Search and Rescue, said McNaughton fell at about 1pm and rescue operations took until 10pm.

He said McNaughton was carried to the cable-car station, from where he was taken down.

McNaughton said he would take to the skies again, but not immediately.

Bruised base jumper vows to fly again..
13 September 2007, 23:56

A Rhodes University student who survived a 30m crash off Table Mountain on Wednesday has vowed to "speed fly" again.
Speaking from his home in Stellenbosch on Thursday, Alexis McNaughton, 19, told Grocott's Mail that he was still walking with a bad limp, but would be back in Grahamstown for the start of the university term on Monday.

And when he's fully recovered he'll be jumping again, only this time he'll be "a little more careful".

McNaughton was attempting to win a competition offering R50,000 for charity by filming himself jumping and parachuting off the mountain. A team of 30 had to be airlifted in to carry out a rescue operation lasting almost nine hours.

McNaughton says cloud cover prevented a Red Cross helicopter from getting near the Platteklip Gorge ledge where he landed. Instead, rescue workers had to be lifted halfway up the mountain and climbed the rest of the way. As conditions deteriorated, a South African Air Force Oryx helicopter was called, but it too was unable to reach McNaughton.

On the ground, rescue workers strapped him into a stretcher and carried him to the cable car - which re-opened specifically to help ferry him to the ground. McNaughton eventually reached the hospital at 10pm.

Miraculously, he sustained only bruises, mild hypothermia, and two big cracks to his helmet. "It's amazing that I broke nothing, fractured nothing," he said. "It's really a miracle of God."

An experienced skydiver, he has previously jumped off Table Mountain six times using a technique that used to be called speed-flying. It's similar to paragliding because one runs off a cliff with an inflated canopy, says McNaughton, but the chutes are smaller and the aim of the game is speed, not flight time.

He thinks the reason things went wrong is because he didn't build up enough speed to get away from the cliff-face, hitting the rocks below and tumbling to a ledge where he lost consciousness for 20 minutes. When he came to, his cellphone had been ringing. He answered it and gave rescue workers his co-ordinates using a GPS he always carries when jumping.

The next few hours were the worst, waiting in the icy wind chill to be rescued. He wrapped himself in his canopy to keep warm, and kept talking telephonically to friends below who were anxiously watching the rescue operation.

News Source = http://www.capeargus.co.za/?fSectionId=&fArticleId=nw20070913232041816C883533

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Submitted September 20, 2007 - 12:15pm.

Just been in contact with Alexis...
and he has told me he is pretty much recovered as there wasn't much to recover from.
But he still can't believe he survived and not being in a wheel chair after the crash.

For anyone interested he was Ground Launching with a PD Sabre 135