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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — It took roughly 30 people from three agencies to rescue a woman whose parachute got snagged while jumping from a bridge in south-central Idaho earlier this week. But it's hardly the first incident that has required an emergency response.
The sheriff's office has responded to eight BASE jumping-related deaths at Perrine Bridge over the Snake River Canyon since 2003, and another 23 injuries since 2006, the Times-News newspaper in Twin Falls, Idaho reported (http://bit.ly/1Gd3iX9).
The bridge is often hailed as a popular tourist destination, attracting people from all over the world. It's the only man-made structure that allows BASE jumping — parachuting from a fixed structure or cliff— without a permit, said Shawn Barigar, president of the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
But the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office says the financial burden for rescues and recoveries from the bridge doesn't fall on the taxpayers.
Search and rescue responders are volunteers, said Lori Stewart from the sheriff's office. Deputies who responded were on duty anyway, so there was no additional cost to the office because of the rescue.
"The rescuers that were out here were on duty," Lt. Daron Brown said. "They're getting paid whether they're out here doing a rescue or sitting behind a desk doing paperwork."
Emergency responders were prepared to step in on Tuesday after a similar incident eight years ago, he said.
"It was actually the first rescue we'd done like this," Brown said. "You might say that it more or less prepared us for yesterday's event. We knew how to do it because of that."
Rescue crews lowered Chad Smith, the special operations director for Magic Valley Paramedics, over the bridge in a harness.
The rescue also involved on-duty responders from the Twin Falls Fire Department. The Magic Valley Paramedics Special Operations Reach and Treat team also responded, but it did not return a request for financial information Friday afternoon.
Brown instead pointed to the visitors and tourism dollars driven to the city because of the BASE jumping. But the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce doesn't track visitors or tourism dollars that BASE jumping drives to the city, said Barigar, the organization's president.
"We have literally hundreds of BASE jumpers on an annual basis who visit Twin Falls," he said. "They themselves are visitors to our community — staying in hotels and buying gas."
Other outdoor sports like skiing, rock climbing and whitewater rafting draw more people to the area than BASE jumping, Barigar said.
"When these accidents happen, I don't think it necessarily deters trained BASE jumpers from coming to town," he said. "I do think these types of incidents raise the need for base jumpers to be aware of their surroundings."
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com
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