LAS VEGAS -- When people ask Carlos Lucero what he does for a living, his answer often stops them in their tracks.
“I throw people off the Stratosphere," he says jokingly.
Lucero is the man who stands between a person taking the 855-foot plunge to the second level of the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino, or turning away from the controlled fall and taking the Walk of Shame back to the gift shop.
Lucero is the Sky Master, the man who checks the harnesses and straps before thrill-seeking tourists endure the Sky Jump, a ride that opened here in April 2010 and, Lucero says, holds the Guinness World Record for highest commercial decelerator descent.
Think of him as part sky-dive instructor, counselor, bartender and priest.
Many jumpers are panic-stricken. Lucero says soothing things.
Jump masters can't physically touch any customers to help them jump off; people have to do that on their own power. Instead, he talks to them, making them feel comfortable enough to do something they might be attempting on a dare from friends.
“There is really only two things a person can do -- it’s either step off or dive out, and when people try to dive out they hesitate a little bit when they realize how high up they are,” Lucero told the Los Angeles Times.
Most people jump -- and are glad they did.
"It's cool to see some of those clients come back up and say thank you so much for talking me down because that was amazing," he said.
Sky Jump is different from a bungee jump, where participants can get a running start, jump upside down and do flips. On a Sky Jump, a person is limited to going off the edge of the balcony or leaping off, but Lucero said either way, the adrenaline rush is the same.
Lucero went through three interviews, just to determine what he might do in emergency situations, such as if a person were stuck. He then went through eight weeks of training, learning things like how to apply the harness, and how to be a motivator to get people to jump off a building.
Building the attraction was quite a ride in itself.
Director of Ride Engineering Patrick Brinckerhoff said the challenge came with erecting something on the 108th level of the skyscraper, and there isn't a cherry-picker tall enough to reach that height. Workers had to take the structure piece by piece in the elevators. It took a year to complete. The ride goes 45 mph while jumpers get a picturesque view of the famed Las Vegas Strip.
Since 2010, 100,000 people have jumped off the Stratosphere to the bull's-eye that that looks like a small dot from 855 feet up but gets progressively bigger the faster a rider plummets.
Lucero says only 13 people have decided not to take the 17-second plunge down to the bull's-eye, where jumpers are greeted by onlookers reclining in pool chairs.
His biggest challenge is trying to calm fearful riders who literally cling to the balcony’s steel railing for dear life.
Not jumper Kirk Applejohn.
"I work in high places, and the most nerve-racking part of the ride is the first step off the balcony," the Canadian electrician told The Times. Applejohn said he took the leap during his first visit to Las Vegas. "When I was at the bottom, my first thought was I never wanted this to end."
Up on the top of the building, Carlos Lucero is smiling.
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