Josh Richards says that he is the “luckiest man alive.” Others will agree with him. Richards survived a BASE jumping—jumping from a fixed object such as a building, antenna, bridge—accident in Italy. Traveling close to 120 miles per hour, he crashed into a treetop canopy. The most remarkable part of the experience: he walked away from the incident. Unfortunately, Richards’ friend, Ben Dummett who jumped right after him from the same mountain was not as lucky.
Richards did not walk away from his accident entirely unscathed. He broke his left leg in the process and broke seven ribs. The cause of the accident is not known. Richards said he is not sure if his crash was due to the weather, which in his account was not a problem before the jump, his own error, or both.
“I thought 100 percent that ‘this is all over’. I just went ‘this is it, a fly or die situation, do the best you can to survive, at least try to minimize your injuries if you do survive’, Richards said, reflecting on his crash. “In my head, I didn’t think I would. Not one part of me thought I was going to survive the impact, but somehow the body finds a way of protecting itself.”
Richards said he felt a little bit of “guilt,” because his friend Ben Dummett did not survive his jump. When Richards first came to after being unconscious from the crash, he called his girlfriend on his cell phone. He told her to call Dummett to tell him what happened; Dummett did not answer.
Under his own power, Richards walked away from the scene and was later airlifted to the hospital. After being in the hospital for an hour and a half, Richards was told Dummett’s body had been found. “I had such high hopes for Ben when I heard he was missing,” Richards said. I thought if I can survive, he can do it too.”
Dummett’s family traveled to Italy to retrieve their son’s body. They visited Richards in the hospital. Reflecting on the experience, Richards said, “It was hard to speak to them and you feel a bit guilty for surviving. They were super supportive and wished me the best to get better.”
Richards said that he knows he was fortunate to survive and he could have easily died or broken his back. “I will live every day with a maximum respect for what I’ve got. I won’t sit back and be scared of living because that’s not what Ben would have wanted and it’s not what life is all about, especially when you’ve been given another chance,” Richards said. “It was a freak accident and I’m just super lucky. That’s the only thing I can put it down to. There was no skill involved.”
Richards has 500 skydives to his credit and over 200 BASE jumps. Richards had performed over 30 BASE jumps on the trip alone. Dummett met up with him in various countries to join him. While Richards said he had not gone BASE jumping with him a great amount, they had skydived together for years.
Both are from Australia where BASE jumping is illegal.
Talking about his friend, Richards said, “He basically lived in Europe for the summer and he was all about the adventure. That was him. You could never take it away from him. He was such a good friend.”
While Richards is done BASE-jumping, after the incident, he will take to the skies again. “I will skydive again over time,” Richards said, estimating the timeline for him to be back in the sky at about six months. “BASE-jumping is finished. Not because I want to quit but because I can’t put my family and girlfriend through that stress anymore because they’ve seen the worst.”
Richards defends the sport of BASE jumping. He considers it “reasonably safe.” He also said he wished it was not outlawed in Australia. “People only hear about it when stuff goes wrong, especially in Australia because we don’t have the freedom to jump, so we don’t jump,” Richards said. “Unfortunately accidents happen, but accidents happen in every facet of life.”