The tragic death of 12-year old Bonny Sanders Burney of South Carolina while ziplining at summer camp has closed the camp’s zipline. It has also led to many questions about safety when ziplining in Oahu.
What happened at that zipline in South Carolina? The single rope between the zipline and Bonny’s harness snapped and she fell into a ravine 20 feet below. She had traveled over 200 yards by the time the rope snapped and she fell.
What caused the rope to snap is still being investigated. David Ozmore, president of the YMCA of High Point, which runs Camp Cheerio, said that somehow, a section of the rope melted as a result of friction, possibly from another rope. “We’re going to re-create the conditions and try to come to a theory or final decision,” he said.
Inspector Randy Smith described the break in the rope as a “cut” that was partly caused by melting but wouldn’t say whether it came from friction from another rope.
Could this happen when ziplining in Oahu?
The ziplines on Oahu do not use the same equipment as the zipline in South Carolina. Riders are not suspended by simple ropes. Instead, all Oahu ziplines use double straps that meet and exceed industry safety standards. They are updated and meet all ACCT standards.
Additionally, when ziplining on Oahu the rider is not responsible for braking by hand. Hand braking is one of the major causes of injuries in ziplining. Oahu ziplines have sophisticated braking systems that do not risk the injuries that are caused by hand braking.
Furthermore, each of the Oahu ziplines has a policy to inspect equipment before use. If a strap is found to be worn or cut, it is removed from service and replaced with another.
How Can I Feel Safer?
First, ziplining on Oahu is a good start. The three ziplines that we recommend on this site are all painstakingly operated and adhere to the top safety standards. They were all built by accredited builders to ACCT standards.
Second, listen carefully to the safety briefing. You will be safest if you follow the guide’s instructions. They are trained professionals.
Third, do your own equipment inspection before ziplining. Look at your harness for rips or damage. Make sure that the trolley is not rusted.
Finally, take comfort in statistics. Ziplining is statistically far safer than most of the activities that you will do on your holiday. It is also more fun.