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Two Organizers Charged in Thrill-Seeker’s Death

March 23, 1990

METZ, France (AP) _ Two leaders of a group of thrill-seekers who jump from high places with elastic cords tied around their ankles were charged with involuntary homicide in connection with a jumper’s death.

It was the first such court action in France resulting from the fad, in which jumpers attach elastic cords to their ankles and to the base of the platform from which they leap.

The accident occurred during a festival in eastern France in June. The government banned elastic-band jumps a month later, then legalized them again in October after implementing new safety rules.

The victim of the June 26 accident, Raymond Saputa, 24, was the 72nd person that day to leap from a 180-foot-high crane set up for jumpers. Saputa’s elastic gave way during his second bounce, and he crashed to the ground.

A magistrate filed charges Thursday against Marc Gapp, director of the jumping club, and Bertrand Blancher, a club employee stationed at the top of the crane to assist jumpers.

There have been conflicting accounts of why the accident occurred. According to Blancher, Saputa jumped before he was supposed to, and the elastic was in the wrong position. According to a witness on the ground, Blancher detached the elastic prematurely after Saputa jumped.

New safety rules were implemented after three jumping deaths in early 1989. They require all jumpers to undergo heart exams; require the elastic bands to be changed after every 150 jumps; and limit the number of jumps per hour from each set of elastic.

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