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BASE Jumpers Target TV Towers, One Reported Death

RIVES JUNCTION, MICH.—A 31-year-old man died Wednesday evening in south-central Michigan after BASE jumping from a nearly 1,000-foot TV tower owned by WLAJ-TV, reports indicate. Josh Sheppard of Southfield, Mich., was said to have died after his parachute failed to deploy when he leapt from the structure located near Rives Junction.

The incident was reported at WLNS-TV, sister station to WLAJ, which carries news produced by WLNS, a Media General station. Both WLNS and AP said a WLAJ employee reported the incident.

The fatality comes just days after two BASE jumpers posted GoPro footage of their leap from an unidentified TV tower on YouTube. (Video below story.) One said he performed nine front flips on the way down. Wireless Estimator, a digital publication devoted to news about communications towers, called it the “newest foolish YouTube entry.”

“If brains were dynamite some folks wouldn’t have enough to blow their GoPro helmet off their head,” the WE team said, adding that “having to safely thread guy wires on the way down that could easily serve as a human egg slicer, provides for a foolish and dangerous BASE jump that can only invite someone else to attempt a more extreme jump.”

Whether or not that was the case with Sheppard is not indicated in reports. One commenter on the YouTube post, Montana photographer Todd Klassy mentioned the pair’s radiation exposure.

“I wonder if they are keen to all of the radiation their bodies sucked up by climbing within the field of what appears to be a 8 or 9-bay megawatt FM antenna. Hope they don't plan on having any more kids,” he said.

WLAJ operates at an effective radiated power of 900 kW, according to Federal Communications Commission records, which further indicate the WLAJ tower, pictured above, was constructed in 1990. It’s a guyed tower with an overall height above ground of just over 1,000 feet. (Image by Tom Bosscher, K8TB.)

TV Technology has queried the FCC about its purview over broadcast towers and whether BASE jumping from them may violate federal law.