The Perrine Bridge, located in Twin Falls Idaho, is the only year-round legal bridge in America that allows B.A.S.E. jumping. It’s no wonder hundreds of jumpers flock to the scenic Snake River with cascading waterfalls and jagged canyon walls to play.
On July 19, 2004, Lonnie Bissonette hucked four consecutive gainers (backflips from a forward position) off the 486 foot bridge. Incredibly, this was his 1100th B.A.S.E. jump. His timing was slightly off but he knew the importance of sticking to the plan to avoid injuring any of the other jumpers next to him. With the bridle (line that pulls out the parachute) wrapped around his leg, Lonnie slammed into the river below to the sound of a cannon going off. Any average person wouldn’t survive a fall that high into water which then turns to concrete. Any average person wouldn’t be conscious after the impact and fight to breath with no ability to move any part of their body except their neck. And any average person wouldn’t return back to the same bridge 10 years later, to the day, to jump again. Lonnie suffered a broken C2, C3, C4, T2, T4, broken scapula (shoulder blade) in 3 pieces, several broken ribs, shattered femur, collapsed lungs, and a compressed spleen. He was left as an incomplete quadriplegic (all 4 limbs are effected by the injury). He can’t move his left leg but has feeling in it, and his right leg has restricted movement, but with no feeling. Oh yeah, and he still has 2 plates and 10 bolts in his neck along with a rod and 10 screws in his femur.
Within a year after the accident Lonnie made his first B.A.S.E. jump back and hasn’t stopped since. He currently has Para B.A.S.E. #1. He is the only person to jump off a B-building, A-antennae, S-span, and E-earth as a paraplegic. It was only appropriate to commemorate the day his old life ended and a new one began 10 years ago on the same bridge by making the plunge once again.
When I got word of this “resurrection jump,” my boyfriend and I made sure to include Twin Falls in our road-trip adventure. I’ve seen Lonnie roll off a bridge in his wheelchair before, but this time was different. This one held so much more of an emotional mind fu@k. A local jumper constructed a special platform, ESPN was onboard with the story, friends and jumpers were present, and the weather was perfect. Lonnie was ready to explore the concept of revenge, the feeling of resurgence and the sensation of flight once again off his biggest enemy. The jump went as perfect as we all could have hoped for and while Lonnie lay on the ground, he passionately gave the bridge 2 middle fingers.
Lonnie hasn’t logged a jump since number 1101 because to him, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is that the quest for adventure continues, that his friends and family are along for the ride and that this accident does not define him, but merely makes him work harder for the taste of freedom. As I always like to say, it’s not about living, it’s about feeling alive.
If you would like to see Lonnie’s inspiring journey back to the scene of his accident and watch him roll off the bridge, watch ESPN on August 10th.
Photos Courtesy of Pepe Cam: www.pepecamphotography.com