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Sometimes, the daredevil loses

Nik Wallenda may not be the best person to decide what's safe.

blog by Ben Kirst  • 

So Nik Wallenda doesn’t want to wear a safety harness, and his father doesn’t like interlopers telling his family how to play it safe. Hey, he’s just walking on a glorified piece of metal string over a massive waterfall / international border on live television! And so what if his grandfather died in a tightrope stunt himself? Let’s not get all overdramatic about “safety.” Since it appears that ABC wants the tightrope walker to wear the protective gear, he probably will. You just don’t mess with Disney. While we watch this all play out, consider these famous daredevils who most likely wished a nameless, faceless corporation compelled them to take a few more safety measures, as well.

Robert Overacker—In 1995, this California grad student planned to shoot over the Horseshoe Falls on a jet ski and then parachute to safety. The stunt was intended to draw attention to the issue of homelessness. Not sure that the mission was accomplished, because the real newspeg from this particular attempt was the fact that Overacker, somewhat predictably, was killed when his parachute failed and he plummeted into the churning river below. “When you’re hitting water, it’s like hitting cement at that height,” Tom Detenbeck, a parks police dispatcher, told reporter David R. Baker.

Ryan Dunn—the Jackass star and Williamsville native made a name for himself by performing outrageous, sometimes dangerous, stunts as part of the notoriously ridiculous troupe’s gonzo antics. Dunn, however, died in 2011 when he lost control of his 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 on a Pennsylvania road in the early morning hours after an alleged night of drinking. Police believe he may have been driving as fast as 140 miles per hour at the time of the wreck.

Evel Knievel—In 1975, Knievel jumped 13 buses in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium in London. He successfully cleared the buses, but botched the landing and subsequently shattered his pelvis. The legendary stuntman didn’t let a little trouble like a severely broken bone stop him from addressing the crowd, telling the gathered throng that “...you are the last people in the world who will see me jump. Because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I’m through.” But get this:

With then-ABC announcer Frank Gifford helping him out of the arena, Knievel was overheard saying, “I’m hurt awful bad, and I think I’m going into shock.” Gifford proceeded to plead with Knievel that he has proved enough and to use the stretcher, Knievel refused again, insisting, “I walked in, I want to walk out!”


Photo from Flickr / Roller Coaster Philosophy.

TAGGED: daredevils, evil knievel, niagara falls, nik wallenda, tightrope walk

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