An extreme winter activity turned into tragedy, after a zorb with two tourists inside lost control and plunged into a creek in Dombay mountain area, in Russia’s south. One of the two young men died, the other suffered a concussion.
An investigation has been launched into the death of a Russian tourist in an an inflatable "zorb" ball that plunged into a creek in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia region of the North Caucasus.
Denis and Vladimir came to Dombay ski resort individually, but on January 3 both decided they wanted to take a trip down a slope in an inflatable zorb. The zorbing experience, growing in popularity in Russia, cost each of them less than 10 dollars.
One of Denis’s friends filmed the two getting inside the 3-meter (10-feet) balloon and getting harnessed, but the trip was to end in tragedy.
The zorb almost immediately fell off the safe route and the man who was expected to halt it down the hill can be seen in Mobilny Reporter's video chasing the giant ball in vain.
Bumping and swirling the zorb went down a steep slope into the Ganachkhir creek. The one km (half a mile) trip finished on the ice of the lake Pavliny Glaz, Vesti news channel reported.
"What is down there?" asks a witness in the original eight-minute footage as the zorb rolls over the edge of the gorge.
"A catastrophe," another one replies.
When the emergencies crews reached Denis and Vladimir, both were still alive. The rescue mission was hard – in places stretchers had to be dragged through snow. Denis Burakov, who was 27, died on his way to hospital. Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, suffered a concussion and several minor injuries; his condition is serious but life is out of danger.
Though the tragedy took place five days ago, the Ministry of Emergencies reported it only this Monday recounting all the recent occurrences at the ski resort and warning tourists against light-mindedness.
Two supposed owners have been detained following the incident. A criminal case has also been opened "into causing death through providing unsafe services", Sergey Shuvayev, the spokesman for the regional investigative committee, said Wednesday. The penalty under the charge carries a maximum prison sentence of six years.
Investigators have identified two organisers who have not been detained but "will be questioned in the near future," Shuvayev said. It remains unclear why the dangerous zone was not netted off, but the zorb owner reportedly told investigators he bought it for personal use.
Shuvayev added all recreation spots in the region will now be checked for safety and licenses.
Sergey Loginov, deputy director of Z-orb.ru, the largest supplier of zorbs in Russia, say that the zorbing run that killed Denis was in violation of all safety rules.
The activity requires a groomed gentle slope with fences or nets on both sides of the track as well as a secure spot at the bottom where the orb can be safely halt, he said, but none of this was the case at Dombay.
"It's not even irresponsibility. It's an experiment on life," Loginov told the Associated Press. "It's all or nothing. They either survive or they don't."