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Man breaks neck on giant air-bag jump at festival

5:05 PM, Jul. 2, 2013  |  Comments
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A man broke his neck and two other people broke ankles on a festival attraction after jumping 25 feet from a platform onto a giant inflated air-bag, Chippewa County authorities said.

The attraction was new to Country Fest, an annual event around Chippewa Falls that ran from Thursday through Sunday, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported.

One person suffered a back injury on Saturday and a man broke his neck Sunday, Sheriff's Capt. Gene Gutsch said. He said he was surprised to hear the extent of the man's injuries.

"They were doing surgeries, putting screws in his neck and putting the halo on him," Gutsch said.

Wade Asher, the general manager of Chippewa Valley Music Festivals that operates Country Fest in rural Cadott, said the neck injury happened late Sunday, and if he'd been aware of the other injuries sooner he would have shut down the "Free Fall" attraction.

"It would have been done, over. No question," he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

He said as many as 3,000 people paid $10 apiece to jump from a platform and fall 25 feet before landing on the inflatable. Participants are instructed to jump so they land on their backs or butts.

Asher said he was told the man who broke his neck was attempting "crazy flips."

One person ignored instructions on how to safely exit the attraction, instead somersaulting off the air-bag and breaking her ankle on scaffolding, he said.

This is the first year Country Fest offered the attraction. Asher said it won't be back next year.

Gutsch said the sheriff's office didn't order the attraction closed because that's not the department's call to make.

Gutsch also raised concerns about overcrowding. Asher told the Leader-Telegram on Sunday that daily crowds were close to 25,000, which Gutsch said would constitute a violation.

"By ordinance, they should only have had 14,400," Gutsch said.

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