Tracy “Space” Walker: Croatia & The Rocket-Man

    I have been involved in quite a few high risk jumps as rigger and consultant. I was in Croatia at a 195m cave when we got weathered out by the Bora wind and associated rainfall. Since it can last 2-3 days, we had to return to Munich with the rental camera gear since we had most of it. Meaning: most of the rental camera gear available in Munich. As I was approaching home via train around midnight, I received a call from Rocket-Man Peter who needed me at the 18m bridge over water in South Germany at 5am, as he was going to flick-it with the rocket deployed canopy (we developed this system) from a motorcycle jumping a ramp over the railing. I made it there on time. My first job was to brief the scuba diver on the different handles on the modified BASE gear and how to finger track to the important ones and other tech stuff. I helped Rocket-Man gear up and noticed that the rocket pocket was modified. It was ok as he was standing there.

    He made a dry run past the ramp to get his line then returned for the final gear check, then to the start point. Cameras started rolling and so did he. He nailed the ramp perfectly. Cruised over the railings, look-reach-pull, the rocket fired but did not launch.

    Rocket-Man shoved off the motorcycle just a couple of meters before impacting the water at 90kph (yes, we had calculated this before the jump). He hit knees first which tipped him forward to take a full body slam against the surface. Rocket-Man and the bike disappeared under the surface of the lake. Plastic mudguards from the bike floated up….

    Then Peter floated up but facedown. The scuba diver froze in shock. Germany Eddie (BASEr/cinematographer) who was filming from up top near my perch on the bridge, stripped down, jumped the 18m down and turned over Peter and swam him to the pickup boat (saving Peter’s life). Peter was unconscious but had started breathing again. During all of this, my mind was going “WTF?” I was reviewing the gear check, and could not perceive how I could have missed something. The deployment chain was totally clean.

    I got a ride to the hospital as they would not let me go in the ambulance with Peter. When I got to see him, he was asking me what happened. I explained about the rocket not clearing the pocket. He didn’t have memory of the event at all. Actually, he was definitely missing some weeks of memory.

    I got the gear and inspected it and nothing was amiss. But in the 6 intervening hours, so many emotions went through my mind.

    The aftermath: Unfortunately due to the bulk of the 2 neoprene suits, the pocket flexed as he cleared the railing, leaned over and pulled the deployment handle trapping the rocket in the launch pocket. Peter regained a lot of his memory and successfully jumped his modified rocket deployed rig/ramp/motorcycle at a quarry (31m I think) for the Discovery Channel show “Stunt Junkies”.

    Two days later, I was on my way back to the cave in Croatia.

    The cave jump was successful.

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