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Monday, October 18, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bungee Stunts Hanging By A Thread

AP

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. - Chris Allum was not sure what he would do for an encore to a seven-person bungee jump off an 876-foot-high bridge.

"We'll see if we're allowed to come back next year," Allum said after he and the others plunged off the New River Gorge Bridge strapped to a steel basket.

He wasn't the only one wondering whether the bungee jumpers would be back.

The seven-person jump ate up an hour of parachutists' time on Saturday at the 14th annual Bridge Day, the only day pedestrians and jumpers are allowed on the nation's second-highest bridge.

At least one spectator didn't want the bungee jumpers to return because he found no thrill in watching what he called a man hanging from a rubberband.

"They ruined it," said Barry Humbert, 40, of Uniontown, Pa. "There's no skill in bungee jumping. They taught a pickup truck to bungee."

Vendors sold pickled possum and T-shirts as hundreds of parachutists took to the air.

"I've never been so damn glad to see a parachute open," said Todd Heilman, 32, who wore a white Elvis Presley costume for his leap.

The average jump lasted about 45 seconds, with the parachutists taking a three-second free fall before releasing their chutes. The fall to the New River would last only 8.8 seconds if a chute failed, officials said.

Heilman said parachuting out of a plane does not compare to jumping off a bridge.

"There's no sensation of falling. Here, you're starting at zero and picking up speed," he said.

Bridge Day also is an annual reunion for the 7,000-member World BASE Association. BASE stands for buildings, antennas, spans and earth forms, from which members leap.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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