Police have arrested the companion of a man shown in a YouTube video illegally BASE-jumping from a Whistler-Blackcomb gondola, causing an estimated $10,000 in damage.
They have also identified the jumper and are working to locate him, said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair.
Whistler-RCMP arrested the 23-year-old woman, originally from Ontario but now living in Whistler, at her place of employment in the resort town on Wednesday. Police will be recommending charges of mischief over $5,000 and obstruction, the latter of which relates to false statements she initially made to investigators, including that she did not know the man who leaped from the gondola cabin.
She was released on a promise to appear and is expected in North Vancouver Provincial Court on April 2.
Police learned the 25-year-old man’s identity Wednesday morning, prior to arresting the woman, Staff-Sgt. LeClair said. He has a B.C. driver’s licence, but it is not known where he lives. “We will be seeking a warrant for his arrest, for mischief over $5,000,” Staff Sgt. LeClair said.
The incident in question took place on Feb. 6, on the Peak 2 Peak gondola connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. A first-person video posted online shows a man – apparently wearing a GoPro camera – chatting with a woman, who is holding a second camera, before high-fiving her, forcing the gondola’s doors open and jumping. The man deploys his parachute, drifts for a couple of minutes and appears to land safely.
Whistler-Blackcomb staff say he leaped from the highest point over Fitzsimmons Creek, more than 400 metres above the ground. The man’s face is visible in the last few seconds of the video, when he turns the camera on himself and lets out a “Woo! Yes!”
The video was posted by someone using the username “Graham Dickinson.” A corresponding Facebook page shows what appears to be the same man, posting about wingsuits and being in Vancouver. In his most recent posts, the man appears to be wearing the same coat as the one seen in the Peak 2 Peak video.
Police say the man used a ratchet strap “in a makeshift fashion” to force the doors apart. He is then seen in the video pushing it open further with his hands. Whistler-Blackcomb lift maintenance manager Wayne Wiltse said the manufacturer of the gondola cabin estimated the damage to be around $10,000.
“There are guide rails that are bent, there are locking pins that are bent,” he said. “And then when you take the whole structure and close the doors with those components removed, it doesn’t fit into the frame like it used to, which means either the frame or the door is bent. … People are thinking, ‘Wow, [$10,000 is] pretty expensive for a gondola cabin door,’ but you have to remember there are only a limited number of these pieces of equipment manufactured.”
Depending on the outcome of the police investigation, Whistler-Blackcomb could potentially sue the thrill seeker for damages, Mr. Wiltse said. The resort is also considering ramping up security measures, including possibly installing cameras in the gondola cabins.
BASE-jumping is an extreme sport in which participants parachute from a fixed object or position. Its name is an acronym for building, antenna, span and earth – objects from which participants can jump.
In December, 2008, Shane McConkey and Miles Daisher BASE-jumped from the roof of a Peak 2 Peak gondola during a sanctioned event to celebrate the gondola’s opening.
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