I had never done a bungee jump, but two years ago I decided to give it a go while travelling in Zambia. I was 22 and wanted a big adventure after university, so I'd left Australia for Africa.
I was travelling alone, but I joined a tour group who were going to go bungee jumping over the Zambezi river at Victoria Falls. I'd heard it was incredible – jumping from a bridge 111m over a gorge with the thundering falls behind you.
I felt nervous, but never thought anything could go wrong. I was the 105th person to jump that day. I stood on the platform, looked at my ankles, which had been strapped together, and worried aloud that my feet would slip out. Someone said that would be the last thing that happened.
The view was astonishing, but just before I jumped I thought, "What am I doing throwing myself off a perfectly good bridge?" But I was caught up in the moment, and simply spread my arms and fell forwards. Everything sped by in a blue-green blur. The rush was amazing.
After a few seconds, I felt a jolt across my chest. It seemed as if I slowed down for a second, then sped up. I could hear the wind rushing past my ears. Instinctively, I brought up my arms, locking my hands together. Then I felt myself hit the water – that's when I realised something had gone wrong.
The sound of bubbles was so loud. I felt as if I had been slapped all over. My hands had stopped me hitting the water headfirst and blacking out. My lungs were on fire and I was struggling to breathe.
I later found out I'd fallen for four seconds after the rope snapped: a distance of up to 40m. If I had been over land, I'd have been dead. Luckily, it had rained the day before, so the river was turbulent and full. That morning, I had seen crocodiles in the water, but I couldn't think about that. I was struggling in the fast-flowing rapids, because my ankles were still tied together. The bungee cord had snapped near the top, so I still had about 30m attached to me, which kept getting caught. I was pulled downriver and underwater into whirlpools. At one point, the cord snagged below me and I was trapped below the surface. As I was running out of air and my vision started to fade, I managed to dive back down, grab the rope and pull it free. Eventually I managed to wedge my arm between two slimy rocks near the side of the river. All I thought about was clinging on.
I now know I was in the water for 40 minutes. The first guy to reach me was from the bungee company. He grabbed my harness and got me straight out of the water, giving me his shirt because I was shivering. I was worried that he didn't have first aid training, so I got into the recovery position. Then I started throwing up water from my lungs. My body was purple with bruises from the impact. I started coughing up blood and began to worry about internal injuries. I felt exhausted and struggled to process what had happened.
I jumped at 5.30pm and didn't get to hospital in Victoria Falls until 11pm. The paramedics got lost, and because I'd ended up on the Zimbabwean side of the river without a passport, I was essentially an illegal immigrant. I was put on a ventilator, and needed an ultrasound and to see a lung specialist. They gave me a large dose of antibiotics – the doctors were worried about how much dirty water I had ingested. X-rays showed no broken bones, but my lungs had partially collapsed. The guys from the bungee company visited me in hospital. They were very apologetic and astounded I'd survived. Facilities were basic, so I had to be flown to South Africa. Friends I'd met travelling got me my belongings and passport, so I could travel. Two weeks later, I went home.
I'm a positive person, so I've never been angry about what happened. Around 50,000 people jump from that spot every year, so it was pure chance that the rope snapped on me – just wear and tear. They've now introduced measures to ensure it doesn't happen again.
I called Mum and she bought a plane ticket straight away. I'd sent her a postcard the day before, saying, "I'm doing a bungee jump tomorrow, so I'll say goodbye… only joking!" which she now keeps on the fridge. She's adamant I'll never do another, but I'm not so sure.
• As told to Sophie Haydock
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“No jump. It’s important. No jump,” were the last words one of the Spanish monitors overseeing a group of bungee jumpers in northern Spain said to a 17-year-old Dutch woman who died after falling more than 30 meters from a bridge.
The ongoing police investigation into the accident now seems to point to a linguistic misunderstanding as a possible cause. Sources believe that the young woman thought she heard the monitor say “now jump,” instead of “no jump,” prompting her to leap off the bridge before her harness had been properly fixed.
The young woman leapt off the bridge before her harness had been properly fixed
The accident happened on Monday evening at around 8.30pm on a viaduct on a stretch of the A8 highway close to the village of Cabezón de la Sal, in the northern region of Canabria. A group of 13 Dutch and Belgian visitors, all minors, accompanied by five monitors were bungee jumping. The young woman who died was the last but one to jump, and it was her first time carrying out the activity, say sources.
Local authorities say they had no knowledge that the bridge was being used by companies providing tourism activities for young people staying at summer camps in the area. “We are very surprised, we didn’t know people were bungee jumping from there,” says Joaquín González, head of the local police department.
The teenagers were jumping from a platform about eight meters below the road. To reach it, they had to make their way along a dirt track through the vegetation alongside a dried river bed. They then climbed up one of the bridge’s support arches using ropes attached to the bridge.
They are all in shock. One girl, a friend of hers, hasn’t said a word since”
Local campsite manager
The Spanish authorities describe the bridge as “extremely risky,” and that the organizers lacked permission to use it. Isabel Fernández, the mayor of Cabezón de la Sal, says the local council was never contacted about such activities.
The company concerned, FlowTrack, has been bringing groups of Dutch and Belgian teenagers to the area for more than five years. The young woman who died was part of a group of 150 teenagers who were staying at a nearby camping site.
“They are all in shock,” says the manager of the campsite. “They still cannot believe it. One girl, a friend of hers, hasn’t said a word since.” Most of the group has decided not to return home, preferring to support each other. The parents of the dead girl have not yet traveled to Spain, but are in contact with FlowTrack about transferring her body.