32nd Bridge Day Has 82-Year Old Jumper

Its a pretty good bet that a few of the BASE jumpers at the 2011 Bridge Day were probably jumping from the Bridge for the first time. It's also a good possibility that Bridge Day was the day some of the jumpers made their first BASE jumps, period. But what are the odds of it being a jumper's first BASE jump, that jump is off of the New River Gorge Bridge, and that same jumper is 82 years old?  Pretty good this year, since Donald Cripps of Pensacola, Florida was on the Bridge.  Here's Donald's story.

Bootleg Bootleg Out the Door

Donald acquired his passion for skydiving as a military paratrooper for the Army in the Korean War. He made his first jump in 1947, and not long after he was thrust into battle by making two combat jumps. After the war he switched branches of the military and spent 17 years as a Navy aircraft mechanic. His paratroop past was forgotten and he didn't jump again until after retirement.

What To Do, What To Do

After fighting a war, parachuting into battles and a long military career, Donald found himself a retiree looking for a hobby. Unlike the traditional Florida shuffleboard resident, Donald went looking for many different activities to entertain himself.

During the search he realized, “I didn't have the patience for fishing, and I wasn't good enough at golf.” He remembered his days as a paratrooper and how much he enjoyed jumping out of planes. Even though he was in his early 60's, he figured skydiving may be the retirement activity he was looking for.  He was right.

He started his post-military parachuting in 1991.  Today, his total for both military and non-military jumps is 3,227, including his first BASE jump on Bridge Day.  He is on pace to have somewhere near 150 jumps this year and has jumped 4 more times since Bridge Day.

When one hears the word peer pressure, an impressionable adolescent usually comes to mind, but that's exactly how he ended up being what has not been officially verified, but is almost assuredly a given, the oldest BASE jumper in Bridge Day history. “A lot of the guys I skydive with come up and BASE jump off the Bridge every year and they kept telling me I needed to go try it, so I finally just said OK.” The rest is Bridge Day History.

I'll Be Back

Donald hopes to be able to visit WV again next year for a repeat performance of this year's jump. He really enjoyed Bridge Day and his BASE jump off the bridge. He said he hopes to keep sky diving for as long as he possibly can. We can't wait to see him in 2012.