A female high-school student participating in a mountaineering class yesterday died after falling on her head while rappelling from a suspension bridge in Miaoli County.
Police are investigating the cause of her fall.
Witnesses said the rappelling rope broke, causing the student, surnamed Wang (王), to fall from a height of 17m.
The student was with a group of fellow third-year students from Hsinchu County’s Zhongsin High School on a two-day training camp at a mountain village in Miaoli County’s Taian Township (泰安).
Witnesses said Wang was rappelling from the Lungshan Suspension Bridge (龍山吊橋) yesterday morning when the accident occurred. Despite wearing a helmet, she sustained massive head injuries because she landed on her head.
After an ambulance arrived from Taian, medics tried to save her life with emergency treatment, but she was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.
According to a female trainer, surnamed Liu (劉), who was stationed below the bridge to guide the rappelling ropes, the accident happened completely unexpectedly.
“I saw the student sliding down normally when the rappelling rope suddenly came undone. As she fell, I tried to pull the rope tight to stop her fall, but the rope was already loose and there was nothing I could do,” Liu said.
Liu said that when rappelling from a bridge, the participant has to wear a helmet and gloves, and the ropes must have safety metal locks, known as carabiners, which are locked with a screw sleeve.
She said that when rappelling downward, a rope on the participant’s right-hand side is used to control the speed of the descent, while a trainer below will also pull on the rappelling rope to guide the speed of the participant’s descent.
If a person is descending too fast, the trainer can pull the rappelling rope tight to slow down the person’s descent — a move which can also act as a brake, Liu said.
A male trainer on the bridge, surnamed Chang (張), who was responsible for checking the safety locking, said each student’s rappelling rope was properly locked with carabiners and he had no idea why the rope failed.