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Dar Robinson Jump off the CN Tower

I’ll never forget the first time Dar and I flew up to the CN Tower. When we went to the foot of the Tower, I looked up at it. I could not believe how high it was. We were escorted by one of the Tower’s employees to the main tower elevator. It was the longest elevator ride I have ever had in my life. It seemed like an eternity. When we finally made it to the top we opened up a hatch to get to the outside. The wind actually shoved me backwards. It was raining lightning and windy I was scared to death. There was a 4-ft. walkway around the top of the tower. Because of the wind we were on our hands and knees to make our way. I hollered at Dar “What the heck are we doing up here?” Dar replied “Don’t worry Ky, it’ll be better on the other side, we’re on the windy side right now.” “Wind? Heck, I’m more worried about the lightening!” When we finally made it to the other side I took some measurements for the platform that we would have to install there to mount our descender on and to stand on. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to come down from my that first trip to the top.

I could not sleep that night. To be honest I was scared to even go back up on that tower. The next day our crew started arriving and we started building the platform that would hold our ‘decelerator’ and which Dar would need to jump from. Two days later we were ready to install the equipment on the tower. Before we started to test our equipment, I decided to throw a water balloon off the top of the tower to see what would happen to that. The balloon went about halfway down and hit the side of the tower. I did this several times and every time the balloon splattered on the side of the building! This was a major problem.

I went down to the base of the tower and looked up. I saw that the base of the building actually flared out towards the bottom. This caused a vortex or a ‘tornado’ effect with swirling very unstable winds. We set up some equipment to measure what the wind was doing at different levels. We found out that the winds were doing different things at every level up the tower.

We spent two more days of testing trying to figure out the solution to how we would deal with this problem. Dar called Alan Lansburg. He really wanted to tell Alan that we could not do the stunt. We had already taken up too much of our short supply of time. After Dar told Alan about the problems, Alan said “Great, shoot all the footage you can, this will all make the stunt more dramatic.” At that point Dar did not have the heart to tell Alan he just couldn’t do the stunt. We all went nervously back to the ‘drawing board’. I decided to eliminate the gearbox idea and install two ‘manual’ disk brakes. What our game plan was now was that we would have someone look over the side of the tower from the top and if Dar was going to hit the building our spotter would holler ‘KY’ and I would slowly as possible hit the brakes. We built a ‘dummy’ equaling Dar’s weight for a test drop. The first time we dropped the dummy I had a very hard time breaking the weight before it hit the ground so I had to add extensions to the brake arms for better leverage on the disk braking system.

I will never forget the day we were in the CN Tower operation center checking wind speed at various levels of the tower. The winds were as high as 60 MPH so we decided there would be no more testing for the day as we were where standing there some one said I’m sure thirsty. So I walked over to the vending machine and bought 4 cans of Diet Pepsi I was standing there talking to a couple of security garueds when I open my Diet Pepsi and took a big drink all of a sudden I had something in my mouth that tasted horrible I spit it out in my hand in front of the gaurds.much to my surprise and ever one else It was a hairy little partly decomposed mouse to be honest I saw dollar signs in my eyes. One of the production members called the Canada Pepsi Company and they said they were sorry and they would send a free case of Pepsi over right away. Gee for some reason I was not in the mood for another Pepsi.

The day, before the actual jump, Cathy Lee Crosby came to the site. We took her up to the platform and she was scared to death. But never the less she walked to where Dar was going to jump. Cathy Lee interviewed me for the show. She asked me what I thought of the stunt I told her it was crazy real crazy. I went on to say I was real worried about the stunt. And that if I pulled the brakes to hard I would break the cable. If I didn’t pull the brakes soon enofe Dar would hit the ground.  Cathy Lee said in other words Dars life is in your hands. Boy did that get my attention when she said that. When Cathy Lee asked Dar about me he said I was his emagineneer he went on to say he would think of something and Ky would engineer it. Dar showed a lot of respect for me and gave me a lot of credit for his accomplishments in return I had a lot of respect for Dar.

We actually had a couple of cameramen who refused to work up on the tower. There airplanes flying past our location that we were looking ‘down’ on. Cars on the street looked like small toys. The wind was always so strong that the tower was swaying constantly. It was a test of courage even to stand at the top of the tower. The night before the stunt was to be performed Cathy Lee interviewed Dar up on the actual platform. I could tell that Dar was not confident and was actually scared. I had never seen that on his face before and it scared me. After the interview Cathy Lee invited Dar out for a steak dinner. I could not believe it when he said, “No thank you, I want to go to my room and just rest.” That was not like Dar at all.

A couple hours later Dar called me up to his room and told me to sit down. We were both just quiet for a long time. I was waiting for him to say something and he was waiting for me to talk. Finally Dar said, “What do you think about this stunt Ky?” I said, “Dar, I think it will be O.K., we’ve tested it so much that we’ve almost worn out the equipment. Tomorrow I’m going to put the new cable on and test it one time.” (You always test a new cable because it could have an unseen flaw in it.) Dar got quiet again. Examining Dar’s face I said “Dar, if you don’t want to do this stunt, I will sneak up there tonight and unbolt everything and throw it over the side.” Dar said “You would do that for me?” I said, “Dar, you are my best friend in the world. Maybe we should just see how you feel about it all tomorrow.”

The next morning the crew got up early, installed the new cable and we did the drop test. I went down to be with Dar to help him with his harness and make sure that we had the right balance point on his body to hook the cable to. Dar did not say one word, he talked to nobody.

It was quiet as it could be. We walked to the elevator for what was an incredibly long ride up to the top. I suddenly was overcome with a very spooky feeling. I felt like I was walking a prisoner to his execution on death row. Even now I cannot find the words to express what I was feeling and I cannot dwell on the thought too long with out starting to cry. I could be walking my best friend to an event that could very well kill him and I was the person he was trusting with his life.

When we finally got to the top and we opened up ‘THE DOOR’ we knew what was behind it. The terrifying height and ever-present dreadful wind. The director asked Dar and me to come on camera together. Because the top of the building was round the director could not see us until we came around the top. The director hollered ‘action’ and Dar and I started walking toward the camera position. Suddenly Dar grabbed me by my shoulder and said to me these unforgettable words, ”If I splat, break every camera. I don’t want to be on the cover of anybody’s newspaper.” The director hollered again, ‘Action, action’ Dar grabbed me again as we walked toward the camera again and said, “If I do splat, there gonna find sand imbedded in my eyes because I’m keeping my eyes wide open right into the ground!”  I said “Dar, what are you trying to do?” I just turned and walked away from him then even though the director was continuing to yell at us to get into camera. Then Dar said one more thing, “ Ky, come here, make sure my two boys are taken care of.” Dar really loved his kids. Finally we came into camera together. Dar sat down on the platform; we hooked the cable to his harness. Dar turned around and said to the crew “Guys, I don’t want to die here.” Then all of a sudden he snapped around and said to us “What’s the hold up here?” We were waiting for the film helicopter to get into place. Two minutes later he turned around and looked at me and said, “Ky, I love you!” I replied “I love you too Dar” then unbelievably, he immediately jumped.

Somehow that caught me off-guard. In my own mind I don’t think that I truly believed that he would actually jump. Right up to that last moment I couldn’t see it all really taking place. But now I was standing on top of the CN tower holding onto the brakes, which held a man’s life by a thin steel 1700 ft. cable. All I could hear was Dar’s blood-curdling scream like I have never heard before fading downwards toward the ground and the spool holding the cable was spinning so fast now that it was whistling! I could not actually see Dar’s fall because I was standing behind the cable spool and braking system. I was so horrified that tears were flowing out of my eyes. Down my cheeks I knew if I hit the brakes too hard that the cable would be snapped like a fish-line, yet if I did not apply enough pressure, Dar would hit the ground. All of a sudden I heard a voice from Gary who was looking over the edge watching Dar’s fall. He screamed only, “Ky!” That was the signal to begin braking. I pulled back on the brakes gently and first then harder and harder. The spool stopped spinning. There was dead silence. I had no idea what Dar’s condition was. I had to wonder if the cable had snapped or if Dar impacted the ground or if he was suspended somewhere above the ground? It seemed like and eternity waiting to know what had happened. Then I heard Dar’s voice screaming at me “Ky, damn it, don’t drop me now!” So I hollered at Gary “How high is he still?”  Gary said, “It looks like a couple hundred feet. ”Dar had free fallen over 900 FT. I started to release the brakes just enough to let the cable drum turn very slowly; it was just turning one squeak at a time as a matter of fact. I finally got the word over the two-way radio that his feet had touched the ground and he was o.k.  I immediately ran to the elevator for the long ride down to Dar. When I got there I gave Dar and Cathy Lee who was already with him a big hug. Cathy Lee on camera said to Dar, “Was there anything different about this stunt than you thought?” Dar’s response was to say, “Yeah, I thought I was going to die!” There was a whole team of media people from all over the world in an area about 100 ft. from where Dar landed. We disconnected Dar from the cable and walked toward them.

Suddenly we heard a big ‘cracking’ sound. We turned around to see the cable had just snapped. The wind alone had just broken the cable off the top of the tower. It sounded like a million bullwhips as it fell from the top of the tower. It was actually chipping pieces out of the concrete as it fell to the ground. That alone would have certainly injured or killed anyone standing under that as it happened. Thank God we had all walked away. When we had the idea for the Stunt Special Show we had decided to do this stunt first. We had three stunts left to film and NOTHING could ever top this one.

Dar atop the CN tower in Toronto Canada preparing for a 1200 foot plunge over the edge.

 

Copyright © 2004 The Rocketman