Two people in China fell while taking part in suspension bridge obstacle courses in separate incidents last week, with one man plunging to his death and a 10-year-old boy sustaining severe injuries after he slipped from his safety harness.
Both had been attempting the “step by step with fright” challenge, popularized by viral videos on Chinese social media and featured in tourist spots across the country.
The challenge involves crossing over a series of suspended planks or floorboards that form a bridge suspended several hundred feet above the ground. Participants are typically provided with a harness attached to the bridge.
However, last week’s incidents have triggered an online debate on the need for better safety measures and have raised questions about whether staff on-site knew what they were doing with the harnesses.
The deceased man fell unconscious while crossing one such bridge on Friday at the Jiushan Peak Scenic Spot near the city of Tianjin, said the Tianjin Jizhou District Culture and Tourism Bureau.
Videos online show the unresponsive man hanging from his harness underneath the bridge as staff struggled to pull him back up. Insider has chosen not to share these videos because of their graphic content.
As the staff members hoist the man back towards the bridge, they lose their grip, and the man plummets into the treeline below.
Authorities said they had ordered the tourism spot to close for a complete investigation into the incident.
On the same day, a 10-year-old boy fell into a cluster of trees and bushes at the Dixin Valley tourist site in Enshi, Hubei province, local authorities said in a notice on Saturday.
Videos posted online appeared to show the boy clinging to his harness while dangling between two widely-spaced planks as a staff member grabs his shirt.
“Grab hold, grab hold, kid!” a man can be heard screaming off-screen. As the boy appeared to lose his grip, he slipped out of his shirt and into the vegetation below.
(Warning: Some readers may find this footage distressing)
7月22日、中国湖北省の恩施地心谷ではしご橋から観光客が転落する事故が発生した。転落したのは上海から来た10歳の子供だという。既に病院に運ばれたが状態は不明とのこと。 pic.twitter.com/efIeDOh8X5— おももいもも (@omomoimomo) July 23, 2022
The boy suffered several fractures along his spine and cuts to his scalp but did not sustain any life-threatening injuries, the official notice said.
Authorities also said they had shut down the Enshi tourist site to investigate potential safety hazards.
The operators of the two “step by step with fright” bridges have come under fire on the Chinese social media site Weibo, with critics calling for the use of safety nets or three-point harnesses that wrap underneath users’ groins.
Chinese outlet Chengdu Commercial Daily cited several safety equipment manufacturers as saying that there are no standardized equipment requirements for such bridges and that they are not officially regulated.