Paralyzed BASE Jumper Lonnie Bissonnette Keeps Jumping
(NEW YORK) — BASE jumping is an extreme sport where a person jumps off a platform and glides to the ground via a parachute.
It does not sound like the sport of a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, unless that paraplegic is Lonnie Bissonnette, an elite extreme athlete from Canada who is not letting a life-changing injury slow him down.
Bissonnette, 48, was injured in July 2004 during his 1,100th BASE. He was attempting a quadruple gainer jump, an outward facing, inward rotating flip, off a 486-foot-high bridge when the lines of his parachute tangled around his foot, causing it to not open.
Bissonnette went crashing into the river below at about 70 miles per hour. The impact of the crash broke his neck and spine and several bones in his body, and caused a spinal-cord injury that left him paralyzed, according to his website.
Bissonnette was told by his doctors that he would never walk again, much less jump, but today, nearly a decade later, the daredevil is proving them wrong.
“I don’t let being paralyzed stop me for one moment,” Bissonnette told the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “The first thing I asked after waking up from my accident was, ‘How long will I have to wait till I can be back out there BASE jumping again?’”
“BASE-jumping brings an amazing feeling to me that I don’t get any other way,” he said of the sport, which stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth.
Bissonnette, who made his first jump less than a year after his accident, set a record as the world’s first and only paraplegic BASE jumper to have leaped from all four of the objects in the sport’s title.
Though the accident left him a paraplegic, Bissonnette has enough feeling in his right arm that he is able to pull the chord of his parachute during his descents, according to the Daily Mail.
Bissonnette has also, so far, completed 1,500 skydives in his wheelchair.
His next challenge is a BASE-jumping trip to Malaysia in September.
“I felt like I owed it to myself to carry on BASE jumping, or else I would have felt like a fake,” Bissonnette told the Daily Mail. “I know the risks and still carry on because it’s my passion.”
“BASE jumping is one of the most amazing things you can experience,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio