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Zorb accident in Russia leads to tragedy

January 09, 2013|By Houston Mitchell

A new sport has swept through ski slopes in Russia: zorbing. In zorbing, a man is strapped inside a giant transparent inflatable ball and rolls down a mountain. Zorbing has become so popular in Russia that it is one of the symbols of next year's Winter Olympics.

Unfortunately, zorbing led to tragedy Thursday when a ball containing two men veered off course and sailed over a rock ledge in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia. One man was killed and the other badly injured.

Video of the incident has been released, and it shows the zorb bouncing off the intended path and away from the man stationed at the bottom of the hill who is there to stop the zorb. The ball makes a turn and picks up speed as it heads farther down the mountain before it disappears from view.

Denis Burakov, 27, was killed in the accident while Vladimir Shcherbakov suffered head and spine injuries and is still in a hospital.

Russian personnel said both men were ejected from the zorb as it tumbled and they landed on the snow about 30 feet apart after having rolled about one mile.

The accident prompted Russian officials to demand that authorities address its lax enforcement of safety rules for winter sports, citing a series of accidents over the January holidays. Sergei Loginov, deputy director of z-orb.ru, the largest supplier of zorbs in Russia, said the zorbing run that killed Burakov was in violation of all safety rules. Zorbing requires a groomed gentle slope with fences on both sides of the track and a secure spot at the bottom where the ball can be safely brought to rest, he said, but none of this was present.

“It's not even irresponsibility. It's an experiment on life,” Loginov said. “It's all or nothing. They either survive or they don't.”

The sport of zorbing originated in the 1990s in New Zealand and is now done around the world, most often on grassy slopes. Loginov said there are several zorbing spots on the outskirts of Moscow and dozens more around the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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