Although it will not be able to be identified until a coroner examines tissue samples, there’s a strong possibility that a Michigan BASE jumper might have died, not because his parachute’s canopy didn’t open, but because he might have been unconscious before he ever had the opportunity to pull his ripcord as he fell from the 1,000-foot WLAJ-TV tower he was attempting to jump from in Jackson County on Wednesday.
According to Kevin Reski, President of West Fargo, N.D.-based Great Plains Towers, 31-year-old Josh Sheppard, a seasoned BASE jumper and skydiver, might have been overcome from the effect of the site’s radiation and he might never of had the ability to pull his ripcord since his body may have been overcome by the heating effects of the multiple tower top broadcast antenna emissions.
Reski reflected upon his personal experiences throughout the years when he was accidentally exposed to over a quarter million or more watts of power.
“It can definitely put you in a personal panic with breathing distress, inability to rid the internal body from heating up and the mental distress of attempting to exit the antenna proximity that ensues.”
Whereas tower technicians are aware of the extreme dangers when a lock-out tag-out is accidentally violated, Reski said, at least they’re aware of needing to immediately move from the antennas as quickly as possible.
“A BASE jumper has no training or RF experience and will most likely freeze in front of an RF element, thinking that his sudden weakness might disappear if he remains calm and in place,” said Reski.
“He will quickly lose consciousness and fall”
Reski said that broadcast antennas, like the one above, look to be benign supporting structures to the general public, but have the potential to cause a climber’s death when they’re at full power.
He said he is hoping that his message hits home with the BASE jumping community so that they will seek out other structures to use in their sport, “ones that can’t easily kill you before you even get the chance to push that envelope on the way down, even with your chute deployed.”
“The ‘no trespassing’ antenna signal radiation warning signs and tower perimeter fences at broadcast tower sites are in place for good reasons,” said Reski.