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Video: Bungee jumper survives cord break

By
TODAY contributor
updated 2/20/2009 9:09:57 AM ET 2009-02-20T14:09:57

An extreme sport had an extreme result for Mark Afforde.

The 49-year-old Bellevue, Wash., man went thrill-seeking with his buddies on an afternoon of bungee-jumping Thursday, but he nearly ended his life in the process, Natalie Morales reported on TODAY Friday.

Afforde was making his second jump of the day off the Canyon Creek Bridge near Amboy, Wash., around 2:30 p.m. when the day turned dangerous. He made the heart-pumping 20-story drop, described by bungee.com as not “for those that are weak of heart,” when his bungee cord broke just after he reached the lowest point in the 300-foot plunge.

He fell some 25 feet into Canyon Creek. But even while his horrified friends and a staffer with the professional bungee-jumping crew that had set up the day’s excursion were still scrambling down the canyon to reach him, Afforde, amazingly, was already wading his way out of the whitewater creek.

“I heard and saw the snap,” Afforde told NBC. “I definitely felt the impact, and I was underwater. Once I checked and made certain I could still move and everything was still working, I felt I needed to get out of the water.”

Afforde was taken to the Southwest Washington Medical Center, but complained of little more than a sore backside. An EMT on the scene said it was Afforde’s lucky day — had his cord broken higher up in his descent, the fall likely would have done him in.

Bungee jumping, in which a rubber cord is attached to a jumper’s feet and he or she is sent falling headfirst before the cord rebounds and bounces the jumper back up again, has roots in an ancient culture. Natives of the South Pacific Island of Pentecost long practiced “land diving”: jumping from wooden platforms with vines attached to their ankles. When a BBC film crew made a documentary on the practice in 1955, the land-diving sport was adapted for modern times with the bungee.

Image: bungee jumping bridge
Today Show
Mark Afforde bungee-jumped from the Canyon Creek Bridge near Amboy, Wash., a plunge of more than 300 feet.
Since the extreme sport took off in the early 1980s, millions have jumped from bridges, mountains, buildings and cranes set up at fairs and festivals. Fatalities have been rare. The most noted death was that of Laura Patterson, who was practicing for a bungee-jumping performance for the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. Her cord was mishandled and she struck the stadium’s concrete headfirst, dying of a massive head trauma.

Despite his brush with the great beyond, Afforde maintains he will continue to bungee jump.

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