FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WOWK) – This year marks the 40th anniversary of Bridge Day, and for some people, the event is almost like a holiday, as people from all over the country and even the world showed up for the once a year event.
On Saturday morning in Fayetteville, base jumpers took an 876-foot drop off of the New River Gorge Bridge, and for many it is was well worth the price of admission and almost therapeutic.
“Any racing thought anything you have going on in your personal life it all just kind of fades away, and you are present in that moment. It requires all your attention, and I just love it,” said Michael Corley, base jumper.
Corley has jumped for about eight years and came to West Virginia from Oregon to participate in Bridge Day because this was the one day of the year where it is legal for people to jump from the New River Gorge Bridge, the third-highest bridge in the United States.
“The Perrine Bridge [Twin Falls, Idaho] which is legal year-round is 486 feet, where this is 876 feet, so it gives you a little bit of extra time, and that extra time allows you to have a lot more fun,” said Corley.
He also said registration fees for jumpers was $75 for as many jumps as they want, and participants had to have about 100 jumps under their belt to jump from the bridge, unless they were part of a tandem, which is when people who are doing it for the first time are strapped on to somebody more experienced.
Robin Moore, who was one of the few female jumpers at the event, came all the way from Miami, Florida to attend Bridge Day 2019.
“This is one of the largest base jumping festivals in the world. I heard so much about it, and I just started base jumping this year,” said Moore.
She also said she loves the thrill of a good jump, but there is one thing a little scarier, packing up the gear once you’re done.
“For me about an hour, but some these pro jumper 20 minutes,” Moore said jokingly.
People from all over packed buses to shuttle to the front gates of the event, and they stood in lines practically a mile long before getting to watch more than 300 bases jumpers leap down into the gorge, and 350 rappellers ascend and descend from the catwalks of the bridge.
“On Bridge Day we can have anywhere from 40 to 50, 70,000 people. It all depends on how nice it is,” said David Bieri, a park ranger with the National Park Service.
Bieri also said with so many people in a crowded space there were plenty of first responders from all over monitoring the event, he also said extreme precautions were taken in case anyone was injured.
“We have Jan- Care here. We have six or seven ambulances, so if someone gets hurt they can be in an ambulance and be on there way to a hospital,” said Bieri.
He also said the day went pretty smoothly, and he only saw a couple of minor injuries on Saturday. There is always somebody that has a hard landing that leads to a sprained or broken ankle.
The last jump for Bridge Day 2019 was at 3 p.m., and at the time of this report there was no official number on how many people attended the event, but from the look of the gates, it is fair to say that 2019 might of been a record year.
A quick piece of history, Burton Ervin was the first person to jump from the bridge in 1980. He was a coal superintendent from Webster County.
David Bieri, park ranger with national park service, “It is certainly the largest outdoor events here in West Virginia. One of the largest extreme sports like this anywhere in the world.”