Australian tourist Erin Langworthy miraculously survived the jump after a bungee cord broke resulting in her falling into the Zambezi River from a height of 20 metres. She was then rescued by the bridge crew and a local medical response team after swimming to the Zimbabwean side of the river.
Standardbusiness reporter Kudzai Chimhangwa (KC) conducted an interview with Shearwater Adventures spokesperson, Clement Mukwasi (CM) about the incident.
KC: What were the investigation’s findings concerning the snapping of the cord in the bungee jumping incident that involved Australian tourist Erin Langworthy?
CM: The forensic investigation indicated that the batch of rubber used to make the cord which broke was weak when compared to new rubber.
The assumption is that the rubber became weaker due to age and use, but also, as a result of environmental issues like moisture and ultra violet degradation.
Regrettably, our inspection process, though in line with international standards and having worked successfully for us for 17 years, did not pick up this weakness.
New inspection and testing measures have now been implemented, which address this and we are very confident that this incident will not be repeated.
KC: South African-based Face Adrenalin, which also runs bungee jumping services, blamed Shearwater for the incident saying the company was negligent, in a South African media publication. They also said they were forced to shut down the operation after the Victoria Falls incident. What is your response to these allegations?
CM: This is inaccurate and incorrect. As far as we are aware, they have not had to close their operations, but are operating as normal. We are surprised by these comments, particularly in light of the fact that the company is the one that supplied us with the bungee rubber used in the manufacture of the malfunctioning bungee cord.
It is the only time we have ever sourced rubber from Face Adrenalin and it is the only time we have had such an accident. At the end of the day, what happened here was an equipment failure caused by weak rubber.
Face Adrenalin have no involvement with our operation. Although, I am sure we all operate in line with the same international standards, I don’t think they are in a position to make wild claims like this.
They have not been to our operation, neither have they seen nor inspected the broken bungee cord.
It is therefore hard to understand where they are coming from, issuing statements like these. The comments by Face Adrenalin are therefore, highly irresponsible and mischievous.
KC: Has Shearwater resumed bungee jumping since the event?
CM: Now that the forensic findings are known to us, we are confident that the new measures implemented by ourselves will prevent an incident like this happening again in the future.
In light of this, it is our intention to recommence bungee jumping on Friday January 27 2012.
The steps we have taken include the daily load-testing of the bungee cords to confirm their strength and thorough inspections of the bungee cords after every 75 jumps. These new tests and inspections are industry-leading.
Shearwater complies with industrial standards’
KC: Erin Langworthy told the US talk show, Good Morning America that the jump operator gave her no warning that anything dangerous could happen. Does Shearwater have standard operating procedures and what steps are taken to ensure client safety in its services on offer?
CM: Yes, Victoria Falls Bungee has very well-set-down operating procedures and we comply with the Australian and New Zealand Industry Standards on the operation of bungee jumping.
All clients sign a detailed indemnity form and are given a full and thorough safety briefing prior to their jumps.
It is my opinion that Erin’s comments have probably been taken out of context. In terms of client safety, we do not only constantly monitor, check and inspect our safety system, but we also subject ourselves to bi-annual independent safety audits carried out by an internationally certified South African organisation.