Man dies jumping off cell tower

Published 10:44 pm Friday, July 16, 2010

One man is dead and another faces trespassing charges after the two BASE-jumped from a cell phone tower in Suffolk early Friday morning.

Jason James Tompsett, of the 5000 block of School Road in Virginia Beach, was charged with one count of trespassing after the incident. The 30-year-old male victim of the fatality has been identified, but his name is being withheld at the request of the military so his family can be notified.

According to a city press release, Tompsett contacted police just before 5 a.m. Friday to report an injured person. He gave emergency responders directions to the remote location. The victim was dead when emergency crews arrived, city spokeswoman Debbie George said.

The 259-foot tower is located down a gravel road about ¼ mile off the 4000 block of Godwin Boulevard. It was constructed in June 2005, and is owned by Boston-based American Towers, Inc.

Both Tompsett and the victim are U.S. Navy SEALs and are members of East Coast-based SEAL teams, the release said.

Neighbors said Friday that they saw lights in the area before 5 a.m., which is unusual. They also saw a white truck going into and out of the area Thursday night, and saw a similar truck being towed away from the scene after Friday’s incident. The tower is surrounded by trees on three sides.

BASE jumping, an extreme sport, gets its name from an acronym for the four types of objects jumpers leap from — buildings, antennas, (bridge) spans and earth.

Police do not yet know what type of error or malfunction, if any, led to the man’s death, George said. According to BlincMagazine.com, an online BASE-jumping resource, striking the object one is jumping from is the most frequent cause of BASE-jumping fatalities. Other common causes include waiting too long to pull the parachute cord and using improper gear.

This is not the first recorded incident of BASE jumping in Suffolk. On Sept. 30, 2009, three people were seen jumping from a WVEC television tower near the intersection of Nansemond Parkway and Shoulders Hill Road in North Suffolk.

That incident knocked out electric service to more than 450 Dominion Virginia Power customers. Witnesses reported that one of the jumpers may have been injured, because another jumper picked him up and placed him in their vehicle before leaving the scene. Police never tracked down those suspects, George said Friday.

Also, on April 11, 1981, an incident occurred in Suffolk that is widely believed to be the first death in the history of modern American BASE jumping.

William Harmon died that day after jumping from one of the city’s 1,000-foot antenna towers, according to Blinc Magazine. Harmon was blown into a guy wire, and his chute collapsed, sending him falling to his death.

ne of the city’s 1,000-foot antenna towers, according to Blinc Magazine. Harmon was blown into a guy wire, and his chute collapsed, sending him falling to his death.