Paralytic jumper an inspiration to the disabled

SIBU: Barely a day in Sibu, Canadian BASE jumper Lonnie Bissonnette has become an instant inspiration to people here, particularly the disabled.

Lonnie, 48, paralysed from the shoulder down, is the first and only paraplegic in the world doing the BASE jump.

He had been encouraging young boys with similar condition to step out of their shell and eventually build up courage to take up the sport.

Lonnie’s positive view of life and energy has become a source of inspiration to Liu Bee Sang, the president of Sibu Spinal Cord Injury Association, who has travelled all the way from Lada Road in Upper Lanang to meet him at the town square.

Liu, who was paralysed in an automobile accident, approached Lonnie to render his service to the association to help paralysed people lead a normal life.

Meanwhile, Lonnie had continued to do about 40 BASE jumps and about 50 sky dives since his accident.

“I am currently the only BASE jumper on a wheel chair in the world and more are coming. I have been talking to young boys who are sky divers and jumpers hurt in different actions such as motorcycle or diving accidents.

“They would love to continue the sport and through emails, I have been telling them they could do this. Hopefully, there will be more guys in wheel chair like me jumping,” he said, adding that there are about five sky-divers with similar to his condition in the world.

He said he might not do the jump here as he needed to assess the situation very carefully as he had more limitations.

“I wanted to come to Sibu and see this beautiful place. And if I can’t jump, then I will do it at the KL Tower jump next week,” he said, having made about 1,140 jumps in total.

He described the jump here being more challenging compared to other places, adding that the exit point was important for him.

He voiced concern about the ram of the building here which may pose a problem for his condition.

Lonnie with 19 years of BASE jumping under his belt, had been all over the world in places such as Norway, USA, Venezuela, and had even jumped from Petronas Twin Tower in 2001.

Asked on his accident, he recalled it happened during his 1,100 jumps while doing an aerial and twist moves from a 480 foot Perrine bridge, Idaho (USA) in 2004.

The parachute got tangled around his foot and did not open fully, resulting in him hitting the water, breaking his neck and leaving him with a spinal cord injury.

He described the sport as magical in enabling him to visit many places and meet different people around the world.

Having no regrets, he said extreme sports were bound to have some form of risks involved.

“We try to limit the dangers by assessing the risks and preparing and practicing to reduce the risks as much as possible,” he said.

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