- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 10, 2006

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The jumpers leaping from the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls free-fall for three seconds before releasing their parachutes during a 486-foot descent.

The bridge is the only man-made structure in the United States where so-called BASE jumpers — short for the buildings, antennae, spans and earth from which participants leap — aren’t required to get a special permit for year-round jumps.

It also was the scene of four accidents in as many days last month, including one that killed a 34-year-old California woman. Still, officials say they don’t have any plans to increase local regulation of the sport.

“We spend more time out on lost snowmobilers than we ever do on BASE jumping,” said Nancy Howell, spokeswoman for the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Department. “We’re not reassessing anything.”

Unlike skydiving, where people jumping out of an airplane have several thousand feet to pull their parachute’s cord, the margin for error in BASE jumping is much narrower. Once they jump, they have only a few seconds to deploy parachutes packed specially to fill with air quickly.

Shannon Carmel Dean of Alameda, Calif., became the third person to die since 2002 while jumping from the Perrine Bridge when she slammed into the Snake River on May 29 after her parachute failed to deploy.

Since 1981, there have been at least 99 BASE-jump fatalities around the world, according to the World BASE Fatality List, a Web site maintained by a BASE jumper.

Those risks haven’t kept about 1,500 BASE jumpers around the world from making an estimated 40,000 jumps annually, said Martin Tilley, owner of Asylum Designs, an Auburn, Calif., company that makes equipment for BASE jumping.

“BASE jumping is never going to go away,” he said. “You’re never going to eliminate the desire for people to thrust themselves off fixed objects and float safely to earth with the aid of a parachute.”

In Twin Falls, jumping already has resumed since Miss Dean’s death, said Tom Aiello, a BASE-jumping instructor.

“I wouldn’t exactly say it’s business as usual,” Mr. Aiello said. “But things go on.”

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