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Zorb's NZ inventors say Russian fatality 'completely avoidable'

Published: 10:18AM Wednesday January 09, 2013 Source: ONE News

The New Zealand inventors of the extreme sport zorbing have distanced themselves from an accident in southern Russia in which a man died and another was injured.

The men were in a giant inflated rubber globe which rolled down a snowy mountain and plunged off a cliff at the mountain sports resort of Dombai in Russia's North Caucasus mountain range, according to reports.

Denis Burakov, 27, died after breaking his neck in the fall and Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, was injured in the accident on January 3.

A video has been associated with the mishap but the footage has not been verified.

Zorb Ltd, the Auckland inventors of the sport and the manufacturers of the official Zorb globe, say they were distressed to read of the accident, but it was completely avoidable if the company's safety standards had been adopted.

"This tragedy was committed by an illegal operator who has no association with Zorb, and was not known to Zorb," the company said in a statement today.

The globe carrying the two men was supposed to come to a gentle halt at the bottom of a slope but veered off course, teetering on the edge of a ravine before plunging down it, according to reports on Russian and British news websites.

The zorb eventually stopped about one kilometre away on a frozen lake, investigators said in the statement.

In theory, spotters at the bottom were supposed to keep the zorb from bouncing down the cliffs on either side of the run.

The Dombai resort complex was not licensed by Zorb, the equipment was not manufactured by the company and the lack of proper berms to stop globes is absolutely prohibited by it, the company said.

"Operating in mountainousness, rocky and snow conditions is very dangerous. Operating any inflatable in these conditions would require extraordinary safety procedures," Zorb said.

Zorb does not operate, nor manufacture double harness spheres, it said.

"There are clear and obvious dangers in such a configuration and Zorb prohibits double harness globe riding on its licensed sites."

The accident was "completely avoidable" if Zorb's safety standards  had been adopted, the company said.

In 17 years of operating, Zorb Ltd has had several accidents but says "these have been consistent with sports injuries in a controlled environment".

The company says it has an "exemplary record for an operation in the adventure tourism industry" and is proud of its safety procedures and regulations.

It says any minor incidents that occur at Zorb's dedicated sites are followed up with a Harm Incident Report and kept on file.

The company appealed to all operators and government authorities to ensure that they both sign on and apply Zorb's Code of Safe Operations "in order to ensure such criminal negligence which could be so easily prevented is stamped out within the fake or copy operators".

An investigation has been opened into criminal negligence causing death on the part of the Russian event's organisers, according to reports, which said the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.

Zorb said it is willing to give expert evidence in any criminal prosecution of the operators.

A discussion thread on Reddit  lays out just how horrible a way to die this would be.