On January 17, base jumper Jeb Corliss recorded his leap off South Africa’s Table Mountain. The film was going to be used to showcase the spectacular views Corliss experiences on his jumps. Instead, it recorded a near-fatal disaster.
One slight miscalculation in base jumping can throw everything into complete chaos, and on this day, Corliss and his team had made a mistake. The result was the closest call in Corliss’ career. Less than halfway through his flight, Corliss smashed into a wall of granite at 120 miles per hour. “When I impacted, I genuinely believed I was dead,” Corliss said. “From the instant I touched, I went, ‘That’s it. It’s over.’ I knew I was dead, just like I know water is wet.”
After his initial impact with the side of the mountain, Corliss was dealing with a broken wing suit. After losing control, Corliss had to figure out if he was going to pull his safety parachute and try to wait it out for an improbable rescue in unbearable pain or give up and let himself die upon instant impact with the next wall of rocks on the mountain. Corliss chose the chute and lived to say, “It was a difficult choice to make. From impact to deployment was around six seconds, but it felt like minutes.”
The final damage was bad, but nothing life threatening: two broken bones in the ankle, a broken fibula, minor kidney issues tied to dehydration (it was 120 degrees that day), and a large open wound on the right shin. If you watch the video, you’ll be shocked that these were the only injuries Corliss suffered. He expects a full recovery — although he lost the ACL in his left knee — which means there is still more jumping in Corliss’ future.