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Newspaper: Riggers got just 2 minutes of training before stunt death

January 28, 1997

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Volunteers given life-or-death responsibility for a crew of bungee jumpers received only two minutes of instruction before the Super Bowl rehearsal in which one acrobat was killed, one of the volunteers says.

The unidentified volunteer also said the group was asked not to tell the performers about their lack of experience, The Times-Picayune reported Tuesday. The volunteers were responsible for letting out the jumpers’ lines.

Lora ``Dinky″ Patterson, 41, of Sarasota, Fla., was one of eight bungee jumpers who were to drop toward the field and bounce twice at the end of their cords, and then be lowered to the floor by the two-member teams of volunteer rigging handlers.

But Mrs. Patterson, a former circus aerialist, hit the ground on her second dive during Thursday’s rehearsal for the Super Bowl halftime show and died of a head injury.

An official in charge of the stunt told police that the volunteers handling Patterson apparently let out too much line, the newspaper said.

The act was staged by Branam Enterprises of Granada Hills, Calif. Branam told police that it had hoped to hire an experienced crew to back up the act but was unable to field one, according to the newspaper.

A secretary at the company, Shelly Beckman, said: ``The investigation is still on, so we can’t make any comment.″

The volunteer who spoke to the newspaper was not one of the two holding Patterson’s cord. There was no immediate indication whether those two had any experience.

He said a friend called him the morning of the rehearsal, asking if he wanted to work at the Super Bowl, ``see the game from the floor and maybe even get paid.″

``He said it had something to do with helping the bungee jumpers or rope climbers. I thought I would be standing on the floor unhitching the ropes from their belts when they came down, something like that,″ said the volunteer, who has no bungee-jumping experience or special athletic skills.

According to the volunteer, someone from Branam gathered the workers just before the rehearsal and gave them a two-minute course on handling the jumpers’ bungee cords.

The man soon found himself three stories above the highest seats, waiting on a narrow walkway to feed lines to one of the acrobats.

During a meal break, he said, a Branam employee told them that if they met one of the acrobats, they shouldn’t let on that they had never assisted such a stunt before.

And because of the lighting setup, the workers could see little except the shadow of the jumper they were assisting, he said.

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