Thursday, 12 January 2012

Tourists sceptical after bungee jumping mishap

Chronicle visited the bridge on Monday and witnessed that bungee jumping operations have since commenced.

Some tourists jumped while others refused even after paying for the activity mainly because they were not sure about their safety.

Bridge swing, bridge slides and bridge tours that were not affected by the accident continued operating as usual.

While some tourists jumped, some had some reservations because of the snapping of the cord that happened on 31 December.

“After learning of the accident that occurred I cannot help it but desist from jumping today. We are no longer sure of the safety of these cords,” said Mr Martin Attikinson of South Africa.

Meanwhile, Zambia’s Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism, Mr Given Lubinda, was at the bridge on a fact-finding mission on Monday.

Mr Lubinda took the opportunity to take part in the bridge activities such as bridge slide and bridge swing. He took a chance and bungee jumped before bridge sliding to assure tourists and others present that it was still safe to engage in these activities.

Mr Lubinda expressed sadness at the fact that a life could have been lost on 31 December.
In a statement, the Zambezi Bridge Company, which operates the bridge activities, said this was the first incident of its nature in 17 years of operation.

“It goes without saying that we deeply regret the incident, which is the first such incident in 17 years of operations during which time more than 150 000 people have safely jumped from the bridge.

“The exact reason for the bungee cord failure is as yet unknown. We have engaged the necessary safety specialists who will be coming within the coming week to investigate the cause.

“We are treating this incident seriously and our aim now is to learn what we can from this and apply that knowledge so as to ensure that there is no reoccurrence,” reads part of the statement.

The statement further stated that preliminary measures that include removing all bungee cords from the system, which were made with the same batch of rubber as that used to make the failed cord, had been implemented.

“An entirely new set of bungee cords has been installed on the system. These have been extensively load tested and inspected thoroughly and we are satisfied that they are safe to jump on.

“The entire bungee system has been thoroughly inspected and checked and we are confident that everything is safe to jump on. In addition to our normal checks and procedures we have instigated additional daily and intermittent checks on the bungee cords and we are fully satisfied that these checks and procedures are more than sufficient to ensure our clients’ safety.

“Our own crew is conducting test jumps before the commencement of daily operations and throughout the day. Experts in South Africa have been contacted and we expect them to be on site next week to help us with our ongoing investigations as to the cause of the incident.”

Officer Commanding Victoria Falls police district, Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiona confirmed the incident saying that it took place on 31 December at around 5:30 pm. “A 22-year-old Australian backpacker, Ms Erin Langworth, fell from the Victoria Falls Bridge, 111m above the river on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. We attended the scene as the police because she managed to swim to the Zimbabwean side of the river. We, however, handed over the matter to the Zambia police since she was staying in Zambia and had been booked by a Zambian company to do bungee jumping.

“The bungee machines are on the Zambian side and therefore we treat the matter as having occurred in Zambia,” he said.

Chief Supt Chiona said after the snapping of the rope, Ms Langworth was sent plunging into the rapids below and was forced to swim through the rapids with her feet still tied together.

“The bridge crew and a local medical response team then rescued her. She sustained relatively minor injuries, mostly bruising and has no broken bones. The cause of the incident is being thoroughly investigated,” he said.

Source: Tourists sceptical after bungee jumping mishap (10/01/12)

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