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How To Catch A Falling BASE Jumper With A Boat


BASE jumper landing in water
If you want to see where this guy jumped from, there's a bonus BASE jumping clip to unlock by sharing this post. (Photo by Gary Hartley)

This is part 2 of a 4 part series about a service project (recycling) that we tied to some adventure stuff (Bridge Day). Fun? Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.


After spending much of the day collecting 350 pounds of cardboard and 86 pounds of plastic and aluminum at the New River Gorge’s Bridge Day in 2010, Scouts from Troop 179 in Fayetteville, WV were rewarded for their efforts. However, they were rewarded not with pizza or a certificate for their service; instead, they were rewarded with a boat ride.

Now That’s What I Call A Reward

For their efforts in recycling at Bridge Day, the Scouts were given the opportunity to join the National Park Service (NPS) in a front-row seat on rescue boats at the bottom of the Gorge to aid jumpers out of the water.

As the fearless BASE jumpers propelled themselves off of the 876-foot drop, the Scouts wasted no time in hopping on the jet boats to help make the rescue.


“We rode in the boats and waited for people to jump,” Life Scout from Troop 179, Colton, says. “When they got close to the water we would go out to get them. I actually helped get a parachute out of the water. The jumper released the chute when he was about 5 feet from the water.”

Though the jumpers usually aim to land on the riverbank, sometimes their landings wind up in the river. That’s where Tom Dragan and the NPS come in. Each year, Dragan and his crew see Bridge Day from a different angle, from the river looking up. They have been administering BASE jumping rescues from below for over 30 years and have seen thousands of jumps — which calls for a lot of saving to do.

“We’ve been the rescue team for Bridge Day for every year but one,” says Tom Dragan, leader of the Bridge Day jet boat rescues. “Our team feeds off of the energy of the BASE jumpers. They’re so psyched, it makes our job easy.”

Boats below the New River Gorge Bridge
The rescue boats sit below the New River Gorge Bridge and wait to help BASE jumpers that land in the water. (Photo by Gary Hartley)

Though the Scouts understand the importance of service projects and often do them with simply the reward of knowing they helped someone or something, Scouts from Troop 179 were very excited to take part in the rescue of swimming BASE jumpers. Jacob, a Life Scout from Troop 179, said his favorite part about Bridge Day 2010 was being a part of the rescues on the jet boats.

“I got hit in the face with a parachute,” Jacob explains excitedly.

Now that doesn’t happen every day!

[pullquote]“I got hit in the face with a parachute.” — Jacob, Troop 179[/pullquote]

Be sure to stay tuned for more posts about this service project! Also, check out the first post in this series, 876 Feet of Recreation And Recycling, if you haven’t already.

What are some cool service projects that you would like to do or see your fellow Scouts participate in?

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