Video footage of the horrifying incident shows the mother of three leaping to her doom in Karaganda, Kazakhstan after being mistakenly given the go-ahead from organizers. A man off-camera is heard saying “I love you” in Russian, and Leontyeva jumps after a brief countdown.
Yevgenia Leontyeva hit the pavement with a sickening thud, as bystanders — including a friend who also intended to jump — cried out in horror as they realized what happened. She was reportedly dragged 12 feet across the pavement after landing.
According to East2West, a Russian-language news outlet, the tragic accident occurred when 33-year-old Leontyeva was cleared to jump by organizers before her safety cord could be attached to a tree. In one video of the incident, the organizer who was still holding Leontyeva’s safety cord can be seen falling to the ground, pulled along by the force of her falling body.
Yevgenia Leontyeva reportedly survived the fall initially, and was rushed to a local hospital for lifesaving treatment, but the extent of her injuries was too extensive.
“The patient was operated on,” a health official told reporters. “A craniotomy was performed and the removal of the hematoma [was attempted,” but she eventually succumbed to her injuries.
Leontyeva, who was reportedly an experienced jumper and known thrill-seeker, was engaging in an extreme sport called “free-flying.” It is similar to bungee jumping, but the cord is made from nylon rather than rubber. As a result, jumpers do not bounce but swing back and forth when the cord is pulled taut.
Kazakh officials have opened a criminal investigation into Yevgenia Leontyeva’s death, and will likely pursue the apparent neglience displayed by the jump organizers who gave her the go-ahead to take the plunge. Still, the maximum punishment allowable under Kazakh law is a paltry 40 days — a slap on the wrist.
Leontyeva leaves behind three sons, two her own and one the child of a deceased relative. All three boys are reportedly younger than 14, and it is unclear who will take custody of them. Family photos do not appear to show a father.
Such accidents are relatively rare in the world of extreme jumping, but are not unheard of. The most commonly cited number of bungee-jumping related deaths is 1.15 per year since 1986, or a 1 in 500,000 chance of death.
In free-flying, the sport that killed Yevgenia Leontyeva, no statistics were immediately available.
In skydiving, the death rate is considerably higher for solo jumpers — 1 in 220,301 — but fatal accidents during tandem jumps (i.e., jumping while harnessed to an instructor) are as likely as they are in bungee jumping, 1 in 500,000.
Still, the accidents that do occur often receive international attention, as in Yevgenia Leontyeva’s tragic case. In July, a Colombian woman fell to her death after misinterpreting the jump operator’s hand signals and taking the leap before her safety harness was attached to the cord.
These sorts of accidents, caused by human error, tend to make up the majority of extreme jumping fatalities. Aside from taking the plunge before the safety equipment is ready, some jumpers have miscalculated the length of the cord or have failed to correctly account for the bounce.
A high-profile incident in 1997 saw an experienced jumper die while practicing for a role in the Super Bowl Halftime show. She reportedly hit her head on the floor while using a cord that was too long.
Equipment failure is more rare than human error, but still does occur. In 2012, a woman in Zimbabwe was thrown into crocodile-infested waters when her bungee cord broke. Miraculously, she survived.
These cases, and especially the case of Yevgenia Leontyeva, serve as somber reminders of the dangers of extreme sports.