Tuesday, May 23, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Parachutist Hurt In Jump From Columbia Tower -- Wind Slams Him Into Building

A 31-year-old Idaho man with a parachute on his back survived a leap from the 76-story Columbia Seafirst Center early this morning, despite being slammed into the building twice by the wind and landing hard on a roof below.

The man, Jeff Summers of Twin Falls, Idaho, suffered a fractured skull and cuts and bruises and was to undergo surgery at Harborview Medical Center today, said Harborview spokesman Larry Zalin.

Summers, a graduate of the University of Washington medical school, told friends he made the leap because he had wanted to do it for a long time, police said.

"He was cut up, busted up pretty good, but doing pretty well considering," Fire Department battalion Chief Steven Brown said at the scene this morning.

Police said Summers, who was scheduled to go to Hawaii soon to start a medical residency, entered the building - one of the tallest west of the Mississippi - with two friends, a man and woman, through an unlocked door just before 4 a.m. today.

The three said they climbed stairs to the top and used a credit card to jimmy open the door to the roof, which triggered an alarm.

Building manager Gordon Mosley said the trio had first attempted to enter the building lobby at 2:30 a.m. but were turned away by guards.

Somehow, they "circumvented an electronic door latch on the Columbia side and went up the stairwell," Mosley said.

At 3:52 a.m. the alarm sounded, indicating the roof door had been opened.

A security officer went to the roof, found the three intruders and grabbed two of them.

Summers, however, wearing an orange-and-white skydiving parachute, threw himself from the roof on the east side of the building.

As he drifted down, the wind caught the chute and moved Summers to the north side, police said. Then, the wind slammed him into the building twice, breaking three windows.

Summers landed hard on the roof of a lobby building attached to the north side of the tower.

James Samsell Jr., a baker on his way to work at the Columbia Tower Club, said he looked up and saw Summers coming down after hearing glass hit the sidewalk and street.

"I looked up and he was being carried away from the building," Samsell said. "Then the wind blew him back into the building and he broke a window when he hit. It looked like he hit pretty hard.

"It looked like he was hanging onto something. Then he let go and went out from the building again," Samsell said.

"The wind blew him back into the building again and he hit and then came straight down.

"I didn't see him hit because I didn't want to look," Samsell said.

Columbia Street was blocked by police while two Fire Department ladder trucks were used to reach Summers.

Summers was put on a stretcher and lowered to the ground. He was conscious at the time, rescuers said.

Summers' two friends were taken into police custody for questioning but later released. There identities were not available.

The trio could be charged with trespassing, reckless endangerment and destruction of property, police said.

Mosley estimated damage to the building at $3,000 for three broken windows and a bent window frame. He said additional security measures are being taken to prevent similar incidents.

Summers had the reputation of "being on the wild side," said Jamie Woodward, operator of the Snohomish Parachute Center where Summers completed a skydiving school and had made as many as 125 jumps.

"He approached my staff here a couple weeks ago and said he wanted to jump off a cliff," Woodward said. He said he told Summers not to do it.

"What he was talking about was BASE (Building, Antenna, Structure, Earth) jumping. That is the lunatic fringe element of skydiving that gets their kicks from near-earth freefalling. I hate it," said Woodward.

Woodward said BASE jumping chutes are smaller and faster opening than skydiving chutes.

He referred Summers to Ann Helliwell, who operates a BASE jumping-equipment manufacturing company and BASE jumping school in Perris, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles.

"I told him he was my worst nightmare and told him he had the wrong equipment and didn't have the experience," Helliwell said. "What he was talking about doing was using high-performance skydiving equipment for jumping off a cliff, and that is all wrong."

The equipment "is totally not compatible, and his experience level is quite low. People getting into BASE jumping have 3,000 to 5,000 jumps. He is very new and has very low ability. I told him it was very dangerous and that he didn't have a clue what he was doing."

Helliwell thought she had talked Summers out of jumping.

"He thanked me for what I told him, and I thought he was not going to do it. I'm going to call him and tell him, `Now look what you've gone and done.' "

Summers' stepfather, Bill Carver, said by telephone from Twin Falls, Idaho, today that he and Summer's mother, Suzanne, were packing to drive to Seattle to be with his stepson at Harborview.

At Twin Falls High School in Idaho, long-time Principal Carl Snow said he remembers Summers as a "normal, friendly kid." Snow said he was shocked that Summers would jump from a building.

Summers was in the top 25 percent academically in a school of 1,500 students, Snow said.

Summers graduated from high school in 1982 and attended the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he earned a bachelor of-science degree in microbiology in 1987, said a spokesperson in the UI alumni office.

There was little else on his UI record. "He was pretty quiet here, it looks like," the spokesperson said.

According to Laurie McHale, spokeswoman for the University of Washington Medical School, Summers graduated with a medical degree from the UW in 1990, but just received his medical residency assignment to Honolulu last month. She didn't know why there was a delay.

------------------------- THE DESCENT OF THE JUMPER ------------------------- Wearing a parachute, Jeff Summers of Twin Falls, Idaho, jumped from the roof of the 76-story Columbia Seafirst Center this morning, hitting the building twice before landing. Here is his path: 1) Summers enters building at Fifth Avenue and Columbia Street. 2) On roof, he jumps from north wall; wind pulls him north from building. 3) Wind slams him into window in top quarter of building. 4) Wind slams him into window on 15th floor; panes break. 5) Summers lands on roof of two-story Columbia Seafirst Bank.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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