NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 19, 2013

Sports park: Zorb ball rides safe

Officials cite lack of safety protocols for death in Russian accident

AMESBURY — Amesbury Sports Park is reassuring customers that the Zorb rides it offers are safe following a report out of Russia that one man was killed and another seriously injured last week after an inflatable ball they were riding in veered off track and rolled down a rocky ledge.

In the Jan. 9 incident in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, 27-year-old Denis Burakov suffered a fatal spinal injury after the ball they were in picked up speed down a hill and bounced over the ledge. Burakov and his friend, Vladamir Shcherbakov, were eventually ejected from the ball after it had violently bounced more than a mile down the mountain.

Since the incident, Amesbury Sports Park on Hunt Road has reportedly received numerous phone calls from customers concerned about the Zorb rides it offers in warmer months.

Amesbury Sports Park President MaryCarol Fowler issued a statement yesterday emphasizing that the activity is safe when conducted properly. She also stressed the ball involved in the fatal was not manufactured by Zorb.

“When operated under recommended guidelines by trained staff in an appropriate environment, the sport is exceptionally safe,” Fowler said.

Often called Zorbing, globe riding involves traveling down a hill inside inflatable plastic balls containing water. The sport has become popular all over the world and has been a fixture at Amesbury Sports Park in recent years.

The sport also has a published code of safe operations, and the Dombai ski resort where the Russian incident occurred was found to have been in violation of most every safety rule. Primarily, the slope being used was much too steep and there were no fences or secure landing spots where the globe could safely be brought to a stop, according to Fowler.

Fowler also said the operators involved had no training and the globe itself being used was an independently manufactured product that has no association with Zorb, which doesn’t make globes with two harnesses because of “the inherent dangers with that configuration.”

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