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Parachutists bail in pandemic on West Virginia's Bridge Day

·1-min read

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Parachutists won’t jump off the nation’s third-highest bridge next month due to worries about sufficient emergency health care amid the coronavirus pandemic, an organizer said Wednesday.

Marcus Ellison, an organizer for BASE jumpers, told the Bridge Day Commission on Wednesday that the group will not participate in Bridge Day, the state's largest outdoor festival on the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville. In past years they have been one of the festival's main attractions.

BASE stands for building, antenna, span and Earth, the fixed objects from which jumpers leap.

Ellison cited concerns about available health care in case of an emergency because of the pandemic, news outlets reported.

“The well-being of my jumpers is the number one priority as an event organizer," Ellison said.

Some hospitals in southern West Virginia have been inundated in recent weeks with COVID-19 patients with a few saying their intensive care units were at capacity.

Ellison said he also is concerned there could be an insufficient number of bus drivers to transport BASE jumpers from the bottom to the top of the bridge.

The Bridge Day Committee later scheduled a vote for Sept. 29 to decide whether the Oct. 16 event will continue. Last year's Bridge Day was canceled due to the pandemic.

Tens of thousands of people typically show up from around the world on the third Saturday of October to watch parachutists, zip liners and rappellers on the 876-foot-high (267-meter) bridge.

Bridge Day is the only day of the year that the bridge is open to pedestrian traffic.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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