12-year-old dies in fall after mishap on zip line

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12-year-old dies in fall after mishap on zip line

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The starting point of a zip line course in Boeun County, North Chungcheong, where a 12-year-old boy died in a fall Saturday after an employee apparently failed to attach him properly to a pulley. [NEWSIS]

A 12-year-old boy died in a 24-meter (78-foot) fall from the starting point of a zip line, an adventure sport in which people slide down a cable using a pulley, in Boeun County, North Chungcheong, on Saturday, raising concerns about Korea’s lack of safety standards for leisure activities.

The police think a worker at the zip line didn’t properly attach the victim’s harness to the pulley. The worker was a 23-year-old university student on a leave of absence. The boy, who lived in Cheongju, an adjacent city, was on a group outing.

“We believe the employee did not do his job, which is to attach the pulley to the rider’s harness before the jump,” said a police officer. “The employee stated in the investigation that he thought he connected the wire to the boy before he departed.”

The operator of the park immediately suspended operations and took the boy to a nearby hospital, but the victim died of excessive bleeding later that day. The police are planning to charge the employee for involuntary manslaughter due to professional negligence, while they investigate other kinds of negligence in the operation and maintenance of the park.

The Boeun County Government opened the park in April 2012 and a private enterprise has managed the park. The accident quickly raised safety concerns over leisure sports facilities. Zip lines, for example, were introduced to Korea about 17 years ago, but aren’t subject to any regulations in their being built or the safety of their operations. Zip line and bungee jumping facilities in Korea are recommended to follow the guidelines of the U.S.-based Association for Challenge Course Technology, but they are not legally bound to. There are more than 50 zip line courses in Korea.

“Local governments are not bound to carry out safety checks on those facilities,” said a police officer. “They aren’t doing anything about the safety of those facilities but merely let the operators check safety matters on their own.”

The course in Boeun County did not have any safety nets beneath the lines, and the police are investigating whether the operator instructed riders on safety issues.

In March 2014, a 34-year-old woman died after she dropped 45 meters from a bungee jumping platform into a river because she wasn’t properly attached to the cord in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi. In September, a bungee cord came loose from a bungee stand in Cheongpyeong, Gyeonggi, during a jump. Fortunately, the jumper landed in a lake and was O.K.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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