Huffpost Weird News

BASE Jumper Lonnie Bissonnette Doesn't Let Paralysis Stop Him

Posted: Updated:

Life is a leap of faith of Lonnie Bissonnette.

He's never happier than when he's jumping off a tall object, be it a bridge, antenna, building or mother Earth.

Bissonnette, 49, has been a BASE jumper for 20 years and doesn't let anything stop him from enjoying his beloved hobby -- not even a terrible accident 10 years ago at a bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, that left him permanently paralyzed.

"From day one, I told everyone, I'd go back to the bridge and jump again," he told The Huffington Post by phone from his home in St. Catherine's, Ontario.

He fulfilled that vow on July 19, the tenth anniversary of the day his life and limbs changed forever.

"I never felt rushed to do it," he said. "But a friend brought up the anniversary and I knew I had to do it on that day," he said.

The tragic accident of July 19, 2004, happened to be Bissonnette's 1100th jump.

"I wanted to do something special to commemorate it," he said.

Bissonnette lined up six other Canadian BASE jumpers to join him, and he planned to do a quadruple gainer as the last jumper.

However, he jumped too far out, which slowed his rotational speed. In an attempt to prevent injuring his fellow jumpers, Bissonnette threw the pilot chute a split second early and it wrapped around his still-rotating legs and he hit the water head-first, according to MagicValley.com.

Bissonnette survived, but his legs are permanently paralyzed.

"S--t happens, but it's how you manage the things that happen to you," he told The Huffington Post. "It comes down to two choices: Curl up in a corner and suck your thumb or ask yourself, 'What can I do now?'"

Spoiler alert: Curling up in the corner wasn't an option.

lonnie bissonnette

Instead, Bissonnette found a way to adapt existing BASE jumping technology to his wheelchair, with a strap system that keeps the wheelchair next to him when he jumps, but allows a quick release if he has to ditch it during the fall.

"I also have a specially built parachute for the chair so it doesn't crash on anyone in case I have to ditch it," he said.

Bissonnette currently supports himself and his hobby with a small disability check. He is hoping to he fact that he is the first person in a wheelchair to BASE jump from all four objects -- building, antenna, span (bridges) and earth -- can help him attract sponsors.

One natural fit -- the company that makes his wheelchair -- is not interested.

"They sent me a letter that was probably written by their lawyer telling me they didn't approve of what I was doing," he said. "The fact I am the only [person in a wheelchair] doing this makes BASE jumping seem more difficult than it really is.

He says the sport is growing, pardon the pun, in leaps and bounds.

"The average joe can now do a BASE jump even without experience," Bissonnette said. "They just do a tandem jump like with skydiving."

Bissonnette admits he still gets an adrenaline rush when he jumps, but that is not his sole reason for doing it.

"To me, it's more about the challenges, and the people I get to meet," he said. "You form a special bond with someone when you're doing something extreme."

Bissonnette admits all things being equal, he'd rather he didn't have the accident, but admits it has given him opportunities that he would have otherwise missed, such as his inclusion into the newest Ripley's Believe It Or Not! book, "Reality Shock!" debuting Sept. 9.

"To make it into Ripley's is quite an honor," he said. "Being on ESPN was kind of cool, but a lot of people get on ESPN. Not everyone makes Ripley's."

Like Us On Facebook |
Follow Us On Twitter |
Contact The Author

Also on HuffPost:

Close
Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

BLOG: ESPN Captures Lonnie Bissonnette's Return to Perrine Bridge

Paraplegic Canadian BASE Jumper Returns to Bridge that Nearly Killed Him