Bungy accident shocks adventure tourism industryJanuary 10th, 2012 by Susan Reynard | Categories: industry, tourism
Adventure tourism, such as bungy jumping, is a big draw card to Southern Africa for the adrenalin junkies. However rare, accidents do unfortunately happen. The latest incident happened to an Australian tourist in Zimbabwe, who survived a broken bungee cord and 111m fall into the Zambezi River after jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge. That country’s tourism industry is concerned that international news coverage of the event will negatively impact on visitor arrivals.
Other suppliers of adventure tourism experiences have been quick to reassure tourists that guest safety is of paramount importance and rare incidences like this are quickly addressed and safety measures put in place.
CEO Devan Tuohey of Face Adrenalin, the independent Eastern Cape-based bungy jumping company that operates the world’s highest commercial bungee bridge at Bloukrans near Storms River, says: “For the safety of the jumper, we have to make absolutely certain that nothing can go wrong with the bungee cord.
He reports that Face Adrenalin has spent thousands of hours on research and development to ensure that the cords and safety equipment are constantly updated, as well as extensive time on staff and management training.
“There is absolutely no room for error in our operation, which is why we check, recheck, and check again, and why we train, re-train, and train again. As a result, Face Adrenalin has a blemish-free record of having provided hundreds of thousands of guests with one of the world’s most thrilling adventure experiences.
“As far as the safety of our cords goes, we have a variety of procedures, which include assembling the cords ourselves; load testing them; inspecting them after every jump as well as in the morning and evening of every day of operation; re-plaiting them before the outer wrapping starts to fray; and retiring them, either after six months or when they reach the end of their lifespan (which is normally after 350 jumps, or as a result of potential non-conformance) whichever comes first,” Tuohey notes.
He adds that the company has stringent rules in place which are designed to ensure that cords are withdrawn from use long before they present any form of risk.
He goes on to explain: “Bungee cords are made up of thousands of individual strands that are held together by plaiting, and, like car tyres, they have a certain life expectancy. And like tyres, they need to be replaced before they become worn and dangerous. Cord safety is paramount, so we take our responsibility for replacing our cords on a regular basis very, very seriously.”
Retired cords are cut up and used to make tourist souvenirs: “This is both an environmentally responsible way of recycling our old equipment, and a way of ensuring that the cords can never be re-used after they’ve been withdrawn from service.”
He says every point of safety in the jump procedure is observed by at least three pairs of eyes: “Each jump is managed by a jump master, with a jump supervisor, a platform supervisor, and a recovery operator in attendance, and we also have someone in place to take ‘ground readings’ with which we monitor the stretch of each individual cord.
“Every one of the members of the jump crew is responsible for checking every single point of safety, from the use of the correct cord for each individual jumper’s weight, to the state of the wrapping, to the position and security of the jumper’s harness and ankle strapping, and to every other point of attachment in the entire system.
“If bungy jumping is done correctly and according to established procedures, it provides a controlled environment in which people can enjoy the thrill in complete safety,” he says.