“After a few seconds, I felt a jolt across my chest. It seemed as if I slowed down for a second, then sped up. I could hear the wind rushing past my ears”, she said.
She managed to swim to the bank of the river where she flung her arms around a rock. All she had to do now was wait. But something else was waiting for her.
Australian native Erin Langworthy had just graduated from college when she decided she wanted to go travelling to celebrate the milestone before beginning her working adult life.
After some thought, she decided on Zambia. A unique destination that would surely be a trip to remember. Little did she know, she’d remember it for all the wrong reasons.
Erin decided that she wanted to travel alone. As a 22-year-old, she was keen to explore the world and make new friends.
She knew making new friends was somewhat easier while travelling and she convinced herself that going alone would make for a better story later on. She stuck to her plan and flew out.
Erin was searching for a once-in-a-lifetime experience before settling down into the corporate life of a working adult. She knew the likelihood of getting the chance to go on a big adventure like this again would be slim. Especially after she started to pursue her career path so she jumped at the chance.
Just like she jumped to sign up to a tour group who were going bungee jumping.
Despite Erin’s mom’s warning not to go, Erin and the tour group arrived at the Zambezi River which ran between Zambia and Zimbabwe near Victoria Falls. The bungee jumping company was set up on a bridge 111 meters over a gorge of the unforgiving waters that raged below.
The day was hot but overcast. The sun hid behind the clouds making the day look more ominous than Erin would have liked.
The weather added to the nervous tension that was gripping Erin and the atmosphere as the tourists looked down at their fall.
“I felt nervous, but never thought anything could go wrong. I was the 105th person to jump that day”, Erin recalled. Afterall, the odds of something bad happening in an activity like this were very slim.
Erin watched people jump before her until it was her turn. She stood on the platform as professionals tied her ankles together to the thick rope that was supposed to act as her life saviour.
Erin looked at the astonishing view. “What am I doing throwing myself off a perfectly good bridge?” she thought. She should have listened.
She took a deep breath and stepped out onto the edge and jumped.
“I was caught up in the moment, and simply spread my arms and fell forwards. Everything sped by in a blue-green blur. The rush was amazing”. But within seconds, the feeling would take a drastic and irreversible turn.
Erin fell through the sky at a depth of 40 meters. She fell for a total of 4 seconds before she felt a sudden jolt. Her eyes remained open throughout her fall. She couldn’t make out the blue and green colours but knew they were trees and the water below her.
She was falling head-first towards the river, just as she was instructed to. But they never could have predicted this.
Erin was falling and falling before her descent slowed a bit. But where there was supposed to be a recoil in the rope, Erin’s rope instead created a loud and terrifying snap.
“After a few seconds, I felt a jolt across my chest. It seemed as if I slowed down for a second, then sped up. I could hear the wind rushing past my ears”, Erin said. From then, it went from bad to worse.
“Instinctively, I brought up my arms, locking my hands together. Then I felt myself hit the water – that’s when I realised something had gone wrong”, she recalled.
Erin hit the water in the safest way she could in her situation. Her quick-thinking prevented her from passing out. Massive splash swallowed her as the onlookers watched in complete shock. But the fight was just beginning.
Erin’s bungee cord remained tied around her ankles. It snapped near the top due to the general wear and tear from thousands of people over the years.
“The bungee cord had snapped near the top, so I still had about 30 meters attached to me, which kept getting caught”, she explained. The fast-flowing rapids were more than she could handle.
She drifted down the river trying desperately to gain control of her direction. Then the 30 meters of rope that was still attached to her caught a rock on the river bed.
It was threatening to pull her under. Incredibly, she still had enough strength to dive under and free herself. She managed to swim to the bank of the river where she flung her arms around a rock. All she had to do was wait. But something else was waiting with her.
When Erin and her tour group arrived on the bus that morning, they drove past numerous crocodiles. Just below the bungee jumping area was crocodile-infested waters.
She knew she was in their territory now and there was nothing she could do about it. “That morning, I had seen crocodiles in the water, but I couldn’t think about that”, she said.
After Erin miraculously survived the fall and got herself to the edge of the river, now all she had to do was wait. She vaguely heard the screams and shouts that came from upstream.
She knew they were coming for her, but could she hold on? “All I thought about was clinging on”, she recalled. But time was crawling by. “I now know I was in the water for 40 minutes”.
Her rescuer was a man from the bungee company. When he finally got to her, he grabbed her by the bungee harness and got her out of the water before giving her his shirt.
Erin was okay but shivering. She let the man take her uphill to the other rescuers that looked at her anxiously. Erin thought the worst was over but there was one more problem in this ordeal, and it was political.
Because the Zambezi River ran along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Erin was pulled out from the river on the Zimbabwe side of the border, she was prevented from receiving immediate help.
They couldn’t get the local medics to come to her because she had no Zimbabwe passport. The tourists who managed to come to her aid were now in uproar.
Erin had no choice but to take the long way to seek medical help. It took 5 hours to get her to the hospital. She was completely exhausted and worried if she had broken anything but luckily, she hadn’t.
She was recovering well at the hospital when she got one surprise visit after another.
The bungee workers came to visit her and they assured her that, from now on, they’d be adding extra measurements to ensure the same terrifying experience will never happen again.
“They were very apologetic and astounded I’d survived”, Erin remembers. Her next visitor was someone who booked a ticket to come to her aid the moment the hospital informed her about Erin’s fall.
It was her mom. Erin’s mom flew out to ensure Erin recovered well before taking her back to Australia two weeks later where she reunited with her friends and the rest of her family.
Erin lived to tell the tale of this miraculous and lucky escape from disaster. Although she may not go bungee jumping again, she certainly has an experience that will last a lifetime!