Bridge Day 2016
Bridge Day is an annual one-day festival in Fayetteville, Fayette County, West Virginia, United States. The event is coordinated by the New River Gorge Bridge Day Commission, and is sponsored by numerous companies of both local and international significance. The event, held on the third Saturday every October, commemorates the 1977 completion of the New River Gorge Bridge. On this day, all four lanes of the bridge are closed to automobiles and opened to pedestrians. Estimates have 100,000 people attending the overall event.
The first Bridge Day was held in 1980 and drew a crowd of roughly 40,000. It has been held every year since except for 2001. It was canceled that year due to the recent events of 9/11 and the possibility of terrorist attacks.
Base jumping on Bridge Day
Bridge Day is the only day of the year people are allowed to BASE jump off the bridge into the New River Gorge 267 meters below, one of the few exceptions to a general ban on BASE jumping within the U.S. National Park System. People are also allowed to rappel from the span on Bridge Day. About four hundred BASE jumpers participate in each year’s festival. In 2015 the BASE jumping community boycotted the event.
There have been three deaths during Bridge Day due to accidents involving BASE jumpers:
In 1983, Michael Glenn Williams from Birmingham, Alabama, drowned when his gear was caught in the current after he made a successful jump. The one rescue boat that was in the river at the time was busy with other jumpers, and could not make it to him. In later years, more than one rescue boat was always used, and parachutists were not allowed to jump until it was confirmed that one of the rescue boats was available.
In 1987, Steven Gyrsting of Paoli, Pennsylvania, jumped using gear that was not BASE-specific gear and was killed after he was unable to open his reserve chute in time when his main chute failed to deploy.
During the 2006 festival, Brian Lee Schubert died when he failed to deploy his parachute in time. In 1966, he had been one of the first to BASE jump from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.