- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) — A daredevil Frenchman trying to use a motorized parachute to land on the Statue of Liberty's torch got snagged on the gilded flame and clung to Lady Liberty's arm for a tense half-hour yesterday before police pulled him to safety and slapped the handcuffs on.
Thierry Devaux, 41, was wearing a Statue of Liberty T-shirt and had numerous decals decrying the use of land mines when he and his brilliant orange chute became tangled up more than 300 feet over New York Harbor.
The bizarre scene left hundreds of early-morning tourists, already lined up to climb the 22-story monument, shaking their heads in disbelief.
"He must have been bloody stupid to do it," said Joanne Gebdes, a tourist from New Zealand whose long-planned trip to the statue's crown was thwarted by the stunt. "We're only here for three days," she groused, "and it was our only opportunity to visit."
Five police officers on a narrow deck on the torch hauled Mr. Devaux up. He didn't bother to say thank you, police said.
Mr. Devaux, who was not injured, awaited arraignment yesterday in federal court on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and illegal air delivery.
Police said he had planned to parachute onto the torch and then bungee jump from it. Police said they are not sure whether he was trying to make a political statement, and organizations that oppose land mines said they were not familiar with Mr. Devaux, who is from the French community of Chamonix.
This was Mr. Devaux's second arrest at the Statue of Liberty. In June 1994, police said, he was arrested on charges that he hid in the statue overnight and defaced the structure.
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani honored the rescuing officers in a ceremony at City Hall and brought out a replica of Lady Liberty for the occasion. Mr. Giuliani called the stunt "a dumb and stupid thing" and called Mr. Devaux an "idiot" for putting police officers' lives in danger.
The stunt began around 9:30 a.m., soon after Mr. Devaux launched from nearby Bayonne, N.J., using a paramotor, a single-propeller device with a parachute.
After his chute got tangled, New York and Park Police threw him a safety line and began tying down the parachute so it would not give way. The officers talked with Mr. Devaux as he clung to the arm.
"He wanted to land in the torch and perform some type of bungee stunt," said NYPD Officer Christopher Ballou. "So when he got tangled in the torch he wasn't too happy that his original plan didn't come into effect."
When it took officers nearly 30 minutes to ensure Mr. Devaux was harnessed safely, he became agitated and wanted to climb up on his own, Officer Ballou said. The officers hauled him up, little by little, into the torch.
Miss Gebdes, the tourist, said she and others were on their way up to the statue's crown when security guards told everyone to turn around. When she got out, she said: "We saw the parachuting guy just hanging there by nothing but a few strings."
Liberty Island was closed for about three hours after the stunt.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France dedicated in 1886, had 5.3 million visitors in 1999, the last year for which figures were available. It has long been a magnet for stunts and publicity seekers.
In 1990, a New York man, protesting the conviction of Indian activist Leonard Peltier in the slaying of two FBI agents, used a mountain climbing rope to descend from the observation deck.
In 1986, an Australian stuntman parachuted off the torch and landed safely. The man, charged with parachuting without a license, said: "I just couldn't help myself."


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