On New Year’s Eve, Erin Langworthy, 22, signed up for a $120 bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, a colonial-era iron bridge spanning the Zambezi River within sight of Victoria Falls and the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
An amateur video captures her leap from the bridge amid cheers of “Erin!” Just as her cord begins to rebound, it snaps. People on the bridge can only watch as her tiny form floated downriver. “Oh my God, who’s going to do something,” said one, just as Ms. Langworthy and her long, trailing rope enters a set of rapids.
Moments after hitting the water “I felt liked I had been slapped all over,” Ms. Langworthy told Australia’s Channel 9. Her feet still bound by the rope, Ms. Langworthy was forced to swim mermaid-style against the current and make for the Zimbabwean side of the river. At one point, she recounted, she needed to dive down and free the rope after it became caught on rocks and debris.
Rescuers rushed to her aid once she reached the shore. “All the water I inhaled meant I couldn’t breathe and I made them roll me on to my side and that’s when I started coughing up water and blood,” she told Channel 9. After being treated at a Zimbabwean clinic, Ms. Langworthy was airlifted more than 1000 kilometers south to a hospital in South Africa. Aside from a series of nasty scrapes and bruises all along her back and arms, she escaped unharmed.
In comments to the Zambia Post, a source with the National Heritage Conservation Commission credited her rescue to “quick action by Zimbabwean policemen” who raced to the bottom of the gorge by staircase.
Livingstone, the Zambian city bordering Victoria Falls, is known as an “adventure” hub for foreign tourists, with a number of local tour operators offering whitewater rafting, ziplining – or even a swim in the Devil’s Pool, a naturally formed swimming hole perched just on the edge of the falls.
Bungee jumping off Victoria Falls Bridge is offered by Safari Par Excellence, one of the area’s leading tour operators. “Challenge the limits of the mind and test the edge of fear by leaping off the impressive bridge,” reads a description on the company’s website. Promotional materials tout the bungee jump as having a “100% safety record.”
According to the Zambia Post, the company is now under investigation by local authorities.