Last year, we reported on the stunning “world’s largest rope swing” video that went viral, showing daredevils launching themselves from a 110-foot-tall sandstone arch in Utah. As with any such stunts, there are risks, and now a 22-year-old from Utah was killed trying to perform the same swing through the arch’s opening.
Kyle Lee Stocking, of West Jordan, left too much slack in the rope he was using, and it sent him crashing into the sandstone base of Corona Arch near Moab, Grand County sheriff’s officials said. He died Sunday afternoon.
Viral videos have bolstered the activity, which involves swinging wildly from ropes through arch and canyon openings. The “World’s Largest Rope Swing” video by filmmaker Devin Graham, who runs the YouTube channel devinsupertramp with many other stunt-filled videos, has racked up more than 18 million views since it was posted in February 2012.
Here’s the footage:
Graham also more recently filmed a video based on a similar idea, involving a pendulum rope swing between a slot canyon.
“Pendulum” swinging is a relatively new form of recreation in Utah’s canyon lands, which see plenty of injuries and deaths from rock climbing and BASE jumping, which involves leaping from a fixed object with a parachute. On March 13, another man, Zachery Taylor, was killed rappelling at Tear Drop Arch in Utah’s Monument Valley.
Some like John Weisheit with the environmental group Living Rivers consider these activities recreational “craziness” sweeping the Moab area, where the annual Jeep Safari week got started Saturday, another potentially dangerous activity that involves rock crawling in modified vehicles.
“People aren’t accepting nature for what it is. They have to put an element of excitement into it,” said Weisheit, a longtime rafting guide. “People see it on YouTube and then say, `That looks like fun.’”
Stocking was with a group of five friends authorities didn’t identify. His family in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan couldn’t be reached Monday.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Stocking or his friends miscalculated the distance for a wild swing through Corona Arch. Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said Stocking left too much rope loose when he clipped into his waist harness.
“A lot of people are doing it around here,” said Sean Hazell at Moab outfitter Western Spirit Cycling, who was planning to make his own jump from the top of Corona Arch. “I’m definitely going to think twice about it now.”
Corona Arch is on Utah state trust lands but is set to be turned over to a federal land-management agency as part of a larger trade of state and federal lands. Because of the accident, the Bureau of Land Management is “taking a closer look at appropriate ways to balance and manage these activities on public lands,” BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall said Monday.
The Utah Trust Lands Administration tried to curb Corona Arch’s growing appeal by banning commercial jumping effective Jan. 1. But the agency said it can’t prevent private parties from using its lands. The agency posted a trailhead warning about the potential for “severe injury or death even if your equipment works.”
Stocking’s rope and harness didn’t fail. His mistake was miscalculating the length of slack rope for the swing, Neal said.
“These people involved in extreme outdoor sports, I admire their courage, but I’m not going to do it,” Neal said.
Those participating in such activities are often very aware of the risks. Dallin Smith in a previous interview with TheBlaze about a “human slingshot” video that launched participants 40 miles per hour off of a ramp into a lake said he was rendered unconscious for a moment while riding. He wasn’t the only one who got hurt during the event either. Another was knocked out and others broke bones.
So why do it?
“It’s part of the thrill to conquer those risks,” Smith told us at the time.
Still, in an email to TheBlaze Tuesday Smith stressed that the makers of such videos don’t want people to follow their example. Those involved in such stunts have years of climbing, canyoneering, anchoring and rigging experience and understand the limitations of gear and perform countless tests and calculations before anyone tries it.
“When you’re standing on the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet up, you know you’re staring death in the face,” Smith wrote. “We cannot stress enough that our stunts are high risk and we are professionals. People should never try and reenact and recreate our stunts unless they are professionals who have built up years and years of experience as well.”
This story has been updated to include further comment from Smith.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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