UPDATE: West Virginia’s Bridge Day canceled after parachutists exit

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (AP) UPDATE: 4:51 p.m.: West Virginia’s largest outdoor festival has been canceled, a week after a group representing parachutists bailed out.

The Bridge Day Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to cancel the Oct. 16 event on the New River Gorge Bridge.

A parachutists’ group organizer last week cited concerns about available health care in case of an emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. He also was concerned whether enough bus drivers would be available to transport the parachutists.

Bridge Day is the only day of the year that the nation’s third-highest bridge is open to pedestrian traffic. Last year’s event in Fayetteville was canceled due to the pandemic.

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FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — The Fayette County Commission said in a statement “we have decided unanimously to exercise our vote at the Bridge Day Commission meeting later today to effectively cancel Bridge Day 2021.”

Fayette County Commissioners say they will not vote to cancel Bridge Day due to COVID-19 concerns. “We did not make this decision lightly,” according to the statement. The statement goes on to say that there are “many theories” as to why the event will be canceled, and they would “like to set the record straight.”

The commission said the voting decision will not be based on the county’s COVID-19 numbers or the county’s ability to provide, or not provide, for the safety of the BASE jumpers or attendees. They also said the decision will not be based on hospitals being overwhelmed.

According to the commission’s release, the decision was due to “a small group of individuals” who decided it “knew better than your elected federal, state and county officials and acted to influence the coordinator of Bridge Day’s main event, BASE jumping, to cancel its participation in Bridge Day.” The commission also adds that Bridge Day will not be the same without BASE jumping and that they “believe the Nation’s newest national park deserves to be celebrated with the full glory of Bridge Days past.”

Last week, county officials had agreed to continue Bridge Day without BASE jumping, with officials voting 4-2 in favor of proceeding with Bridge Day this year.

The commission also says they will implement changes to the Bridge Day Commission bylaws and take all necessary action to ensure in the future that no individual or small group has the power to unilaterally influence a decision.

Bridge Day is planned for 2022.

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