On Oct. 21 a New Zealand climbing gym was fined $35,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $15,000 to the victim after an accident that left a 15-year-old with serious leg and foot injuries.
Vertical Assault Limited, which runs the climbing wall, was fined after the victim, who was climbing with a group of family and friends, fell 15 meters (49 feet) while being lowered from the top of the wall by a 14-year-old friend.
The fall resulted in the victim breaking his right tibia and fracturing his left heel bone. He subsequently underwent several surgeries and had metal pins inserted in both legs.
It’s unclear what caused the victim to be dropped, but all signs point to belayer error exasperated by a deficiency in the instruction the belayer received prior to climbing.
“Although this party had been briefed by staff on how to assist each other, some of the participants told our investigators the briefing was inconsistent and confusing,” said Keith Stewart, Chief Investigations Inspector.
Another possible aspect that was noted by authorities was a lack of supervision of climbers and spectators waiting to climb.
“Vertical Assault did not have a policy to ensure there was a proper staff to climber ratio which made it difficult to adequately supervise belayers and climbers,” Mr Stewart said.
Though it is not known what belay technique Vertical Assault teaches, if the photos on their website are any indication, their belay instruction may be substandard (see photo at top), and the lack of proper flooring may have contributed to the severity of the accident. The date of the photos is unknown.
This accident is a reminder that any facility that operates a climbing wall of any size needs to provide proper instruction that conforms to industry standards.
The climbing wall is located in the town of Turangi, New Zealand and is part of a larger backpackers hostel and cafe.
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