Three parachutists BASE jumped from the World Trade Center on 30 September 2013 with a fourth team member acting as their 'accomplice'. On Tuesday these 'Freedom Four' went to court and pleaded not guilty to an array of charges including burglary - a felony that carries seven years in prison.
In April 2006, stunt man and professional adventurer Jeb Corliss was arrested while having climbed over the railings at the top of the Empire State Building while attempting to jump. The failed stunt cost him his job and resulted in a new city law in 2008 against parachuting from buildings more than 50 feet tall. This new law means that what was previously a very minor offence now carries the risk of a huge, life-changing punishment for the Freedom Four.
I've stood in Manhattan and gazed upwards at the Freedom Tower. I've worked out where I would exit from. I've located my primary landing zone as well as secondary and tertiary landing zones and associated over-shoot and under-shoot areas. This is absolutely a BASE jump that I would love for my team, Jump4Heroes, to undertake. My team, however, would take a different approach and ask for permission, as a demonstration jump, as a celebration of the freedom that the building stands for.
A jump like this involves technical detail. It is not for a novice BASE jumper. In the urban environment there are a multitude of factors to consider such as wind currents that swirl around the various structures creating turbulence in many unsuspecting areas and at a variety of altitudes. Landing areas are restricted and there are an array of hazards. Time spent in reconnaissance is important.
Of course, to the uninitiated, to those that perceive BASE jumping as a past-time undertaken by only the most suicidal death-defying thrill seekers, it seems vehemently dangerous. Most people often lack any kind of understanding of what is involved. Just like someone can be skilled enough and conscious enough to drive a car safely or equally to do so dangerously, the same is true within the sport of BASE jumping. While I don't know any of these BASE jumpers personally I do know that they executed countless risk mitigation strategies to reduce the risks, to themselves and others, to an acceptable level.
Having won a BASE jumping World Cup in 2013 leaping from the highest residential building in Europe, I can tell you that these BASE jumpers had the skill level and experience to undertake this jump. They did so in a calculated manner and certainly knew what they were getting themselves into.
Well, I say they knew what they were getting themselves into, but I think none of us would have predicted the seemingly over-zealous action of the authorities to gain a warrant to search their house many months later to obtain the video which has since gone viral.
The Freedom Four were on someone else's property - I don't think anyone disagrees with that. But, for the police to gain search warrants and to charge and prosecute them for burglary seems, to me, to be an inappropriate application of the rules in a country that has freedom at its very core. I can't help but wonder if this really is the moral high ground that New York City wants to stand on.
The Freedom Four need help to provide a fair defence against these charges. If you agree that this has gone too far then please consider donating to their legal costs via their website: www.nycBASEjump.com