Daredevil sports like BASE jumping pose electrocution risks

They’re exciting to watch, but BASE jumping and paragliding can put participants in contact with power lines, leading to electrocution and death

BASE jumping and other extreme sports are more popular than ever. But extreme sports can also pose extreme dangers. Many of these extreme dangers aren’t readily obvious. But as an electrocution attorney, I see the electrical hazards posed by these sports as also extreme.

The mission of this electrocution lawyer safety blog is to prevent the types of tragic electrocutions and shock injuries that have been the basis of the lawsuits and court cases that I have been involved in for the past 35 years.

Why are these extreme sports like BASE jumping and paragliding potentially so dangerous?

The parachutes that BASE jumpers deploy aren’t easily maneuverable. Human error, a strong wind, or a mechanical failure can cause paragliders to lose control of the arch-shaped fabric “wing” that suspends them in the air.

When combined with potential hazards like power lines, the risk of electrocution or massive electric shock injuries exists  — as sadly two recent electrocution accidents demonstrate.

Man who was BASE jumping faced several dangers

The first electrocution accident arguably could not have been in a worse location.

Karl Anthony Lips-Eakins, a Minnesota skydiving instructor, had been arrested in early July 2017 for BASE jumping from a cell tower with three friends. Lips-Eakins attempted to try the feat again later that month in Wisconsin, but his parachute got hung up on power lines on the way down.

The snag causing him to sustain shock injuries, while the surge knocked out power for 127 customers for nearly two hours.

Though he survived, Lips-Eakins later was charged with two felonies — criminal damage and criminal trespass — in connection with the jump. According to reports, Lips-Eakins told authorities he thought it would be “fun” to do BASE jumping from the cell tower.

I can’t even begin to point out how dangerous his actions were. Not even counting his parachute getting caught on power lines, Lips-Eakins faced the inherent hazards of simply being on a cell tower, where power can reach up to 500 watts per channel, which is plenty enough to kill an adult.

In addition, if a thunderstorm rolled in, Lips-Eakins could have been electrocuted if lightning hit the tower, sending a surge that would have traveled through his body.

Paraglider knew how to prevent further damage after crash landing

Fortunately, the victim in the second incident knew the dangers he faced and, while in traction, still managed to take action to make sure no one else would be hurt, too.

Here, a firefighter who was paragliding over St. Petersburg, Florida, received severe electrical burns when he hit power lines. It reportedly happened when the engine-powered fan he wore on his back — which serves as a propeller for paragliders while in the air — began to fail. He hit the ground while his wing, which had wires still attached to his harness, was tangled in the power lines.

Although he was sent to the hospital for treatment of possible second-degree burns, the man (whose name was not released) managed to make sure witnesses wouldn’t receive similar electrical shock injuries when they came to help him.

Because the man worked as an emergency responder, he knew that his being attached to wires that led directly to the three power lines above would make him a conduit. As one witness told Fox 13 in Tampa Bay, while the man lay on the ground:

“His shirt was burned open. … He kept trying to shoo people away. He didn’t want to be touched.”

According to St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue Deputy Marshall Steven Lawrence, the power lines carried 7,200 volts each:

“If you come in contact with multiple ones, now you’re almost doubling the voltage that has the potential to go through your body.”

Heed the warnings these accidents send

Although both the BASE jumping enthusiast and the paraglider were fortunate to not have been fatally electrocuted, these electrical accidents serve as warnings. All it takes is one moment of losing control and coming in contact with power lines to cause life-changing shock injuries or fatal electrocution.

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