American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall into Building—Miscalculated Pendulum Swing from Crane, Colorado, Boulder

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

FALL INTO BUILDING–MISCALCULATED PENDULUM SWING FROM CRANE

Colorado, Boulder

On December 6, Ryan Young and Jacob Fuerst climbed over the chain-link fence surrounding a University of Colorado construction site, and walked straight to the base of the towering yellow crane. It was about 3:00 a.m., 28 degrees F, with enough ambient light from a nearby classroom building to see. Wearing warm clothes and backpacks, the 22-year-old friends scaled the middle of the crane’s square tubular tower, pulling themselves up handover-hand, accustomed to the effort, and not talking much.

“We knew what we needed to do,” Fuerst said. They climbed up and around the crane operator’s box and arrived at the boom—a triangular steel tube they estimated to be longer than the 125-foot crane was tall. They worked their way out to the boom’s tip end, which extended across 18th Street and over an alley between two buildings below.

They thought the boom had been left angled in the perfect position for the giant swing off of it they were about to attempt. They calculated that they would swing through the alley and whoosh within five feet of the ground, before soaring back up above the buildings.

“We liked to go get where people had not gone before,” Fuerst would say later. “It seems like these days, that’s hard to come by. It’s especially even harder in Colorado to get up in faraway places and do what no one’s ever done.”

Even though they hadn’t taken a jump this daring before, they craved the adrenaline rush that would follow. They unzipped their backpacks and extracted two 200-foot climbing ropes, some webbing, and carabiners. They secured two pieces of webbing to the crane tip, as anchors, and attached their climbing ropes to the anchor with carabiners. They then retreated about 90 feet along the boom, back toward the center of the crane, until their ropes pulled almost taut against their hip and chest harnesses.

Young would go first. He extended his arms wing-like, preparing to take flight. And then he hopped off the 12-story crane into the night. Fuerst watched as the rope took control of Young’s plunge. He would say later that he couldn’t see anything going wrong until it happened.

Young’s swing carried him with lethal impact into the side of the CU power plant building, a trajectory much like that of a wrecking ball. Pass- ersby said they heard a loud crash.

“He went right into it,” Fuerst said. “Then he didn’t move.” (Source: From an article by Chris Barge, Rocky Mountain News, December 10, 2005)

Analysis

This incident was not included in the statistical data. It was chosen to illustrate how variations on extreme sports need to be thought through. Ryan Young, from all reports, was an enthusiastic, fit climber, who had also taken up sports such as skydiving. A closer profile can be found at the following website: bargec@RockyMountainNews.com (Source: Jed Williamson)

(Editor’s Note: Our new correspondent who took responsibility for Colorado narratives this year lost all her work as a result of a computer problem. Therefore, only these few reports appear. There were at least two other fatalities and several serious falls – including a rappel failure at the Ouray Ice Festival, but the editor did not have enough details to print instructive reports.

No data or reports from Rocky Mountain National Park were submitted this year.)

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