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Gondola jump puts 'high' in hijinks

Gondola jump puts 'high' in hijinksAn image grab from YouTube shows the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.Police will be recommending charges of mischief over $5,000 against a 25-year-old man who made an illegal base jump from the gondola. THE CANADIAN PRESS/YouTube

WHISTLER, B.C. - A dramatic YouTube video that shows a couple hooting and hollering in a gondola at the Whistler ski resort before the man leaps off and unfurls a parachute nearly half a kilometre above the valley has turned the jumper into both an Internet hit and a wanted man.

In the video, which by Thursday had been viewed more than 130,000 times, a young man dons a helmet cam and pries open a cabin hanging from the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.

He tells his female companion to videotape his leap — to which she responds with an enthusiastic "woo hoo!" — and climbs outside, the high-altitude winds blowing against the camera's microphone.

And then he jumps.

"I did it!" he screams after his red parachute opens.

"For you, McConkey!" he adds, in an apparent nod to professional skier and base jumper Shane McConkey, who was killed during a stunt in Italy in 2009.

The man then lands in the snow, before pointing the camera at his face.

Now, police have arrested a 23-year-old woman and are looking for the jumper, believed to be a 25-year-old man from Ontario now living in Vancouver.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said police plan to recommend charges of mischief over $5,000 against the man.

Officers interviewed the woman after she was off the gondola, said LeClair.

The woman was arrested on Wednesday, after the video surfaced, and is facing possible charges of obstruction of justice and mischief over $5,000, said LeClair.

"As the investigation progressed, it became apparent that she wasn't truthful in that first interview," he said.

The gondola incurred more than $10,000 in damage, said LeClair.

Wayne Wiltse, lift maintenance manager at Whistler Blackcomb, said the man, who parachuted into a clearing near Whistler village, may have hiked to the top of the sliding centre before skiing out.

Staff met the woman as she stepped off the gondola, and police were called, Wiltse said.

"She, at the time, claimed that she was just an innocent bystander in the cabin," he said.

The stunt put public safety at risk, Wiltse said.

"We'd rather not say what he did to pry the door open, but he used mechanical advantage to pull the door open and pull past three safety devices," he said.

"We will have to put some precautions in place, absolutely, whether it's video surveillance or something along those lines we're not 100 per cent sure yet."

Wiltse said McConkey did a stunt at Whistler when the Peak 2 Peak gondola opened in 2008, but he jumped from the roof of a gondola and numerous safety precautions were taken in the cabin and on the ground.

"Obviously, they thought it wasn't a big deal, which it was," he said of the pair in the video. "They compromised the safety of the components, which is a huge concern to us. This cannot happen."

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

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