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Editor's Notes: KSL.com does not encourage or promote engaging in extreme activities like BASE jumping. Readers should not attempt BASE jumping without proper training and equipment.TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Jay Rawe has made international news this year during his recovery from a near-fatal BASE jumping accident that occurred in Idaho in 2014. Rawe recently shared his thoughts on the terrifying event and its aftermath.
In the early part of 2014, Rawe’s home base was in Draper as he traveled the country in search of new places to BASE jump. BASE jumping is an adrenaline-fueled sport where participants parachute down from fixed objects ("BASE" is an acronym for the four categories of objects you can jump from: building, antenna, span, Earth.)
One of Rawe’s favorite spots was the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. The 1,500-foot-long bridge is well known because it’s one of the few man-made structures in the United States where adventure-seekers can legally jump year-round without a permit.
On March 24, 2014, Rawe arrived at the bridge with his friends. Because he’d done nearly 300 successful jumps from the bridge over the years, he felt comfortable on the massive structure. As he stepped to the edge and looked at the Snake River nearly 500 feet below, he was reminded of the beauty and uniqueness of the location.
“It started off a normal day at the bridge,” he said. “There were a few people there jumping. Weather was nice. Everyone was having a pretty, mellow day.”
After two “really smooth” jumps, Rawe decided to partner with his friend, Austin Carey, for an unusual tandem leap. With Carey positioned near the edge of the bridge, Rawe climbed up and stood on his shoulders. They lost their balance, however, and in the ensuing confusion their chutes tangled.
Friends on the bridge watched in horror as the two men plummeted into the canyon below. They struck the ground close to the river’s edge, both motionless in a jumbled pile of chutes and cords.
I have done a couple of BASE jumps and about 10 skydives in the last couple of months. They all have gone very well, and I've even been able to stand up most of my landings, rather than sliding them in.
The whole event was recorded from the bridge.
With Rawe and Carey incapacitated on the canyon floor, responders used search-and-rescue boats to reach them. Both men suffered serious injuries, including fractures to the spine. Carey’s injuries were extreme enough that it was feared he might be permanently paralyzed.
Rawe’s recovery began at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls, Idaho. He later transferred to the Tampa General Spinal Rehab Center and spent a few weeks in their inpatient therapy.
“I did PT and OT and learned how to walk again," Rawe said. "Built strength in my hips and my legs.”
After his inpatient treatments, Rawe moved to the facility’s outpatient physical therapy. He did balance training and cardio, as well as acupuncture and yoga. Of all the treatments, Rawe said that yoga has been particularly instrumental in his recovery. It has increased his balance, strength and overall confidence.
Despite his initial progress, Rawe still faced a long road in his recovery, and though it may sound counterintuitive to some, he felt that returning to the extreme sports of BASE jumping and skydiving would help.
“I have done a couple of BASE jumps and about 10 skydives in the last couple of months,” he said. “They all have gone very well, and I've even been able to stand up most of my landings, rather than sliding them in.”
Rawe did his first few skydives in Florida, then did a couple in California. Rawe believes they have helped with his recovery and said it feels amazing to be back doing what he loves.
“It really raised my spirits and gave me something to look forward to while recovering,” he said.
Carey, the other man injured in the accident, has also made remarkable progress, and like Rawe, he has included BASE jumping in his recovery. Both men have since returned to Twin Falls to jump from the very bridge where they nearly lost their lives.
Grant Olsen joined the KSL.com contributor team in 2012. He covers outdoor adventures, travel, product reviews and other interesting things. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.