Lucky Chance Dies in a Rope Swing Accident
The climber, leaper, and all-around "stunt monkey" lived and thrived on an impossibly dangerous edge
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The Australian climber, BASE jumper, and circus performer Lucky Chance died Tuesday in Australia’s Blue Mountains after hurling himself off of a giant rope swing known as the Death Swing. Lucky—born Toby Benham—first came to prominence in 2011 when he survived an earlier scrape with the Death Swing. That incident, which was captured on video, showed his chute wrapping around his ankle as he somersaulted through the air only to disentangle and open just 30 feet above the ground. Lucky called that episode, “A really good adventure.”
The following year, he survived another close shave with death, but this one was much more costly. After jumping from a cliff in France, he struck a ledge more than 450 feet down and managed to open his parachute canopy at least partially. “He wound up suspended, unconscious, from his canopy, which was caught in a tree 300 feet above the grassy landing zone. He suffered a fractured jaw, a broken pelvis, open fractures in his left femur and heel—and a traumatic brain injury,” wrote Elizabeth Weil in a 2012 Outside profile of Lucky, several months after he awakened from a coma. At that point he had $280,000 in unpaid medical bills and rods in his left femur that should have prevented him from attempting to land a parachute. But on Tuesday, he returned to Blackheath, in Australia’s Blue Mountains, and again swung from the 90-foot rope swing attached to a feature known as Hanging Rock. This time he clipped a ledge and sustained fatal head and chest injuries.
Many BASE jumpers believe that they are actually risk managers rather than risk takers—that included Graham Hunt, Dean Potter, and Sean Leary, all of whom died in a spate of high-profile deaths in recent years. Lucky Chance, however, was almost universally viewed as a risk taker and few will be surprised by his death. Lucky was 32.