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Halftime Performer Is Killed in Bungee Jump in Superdome

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The nonstop schedule of Super Bowl hype was shattered by reality late Thursday.

Laura Patterson, 43, a former trapeze artist from Sarasota, Fla., was killed while practicing a bungee-jumping routine in the Superdome. The routine was to have been part of the 30-second grand finale to Sunday’s extravagant halftime segment.

The NFL promptly canceled the routine and a tortilla chip company pulled a commercial from the Super Bowl telecast that shows comedian Chris Elliott seemingly bungee-jumping from a blimp into a stadium to dip a chip into a jar of salsa.

The accident occurred about 10 p.m. when Patterson and other jumpers were engaged in their third and final rehearsal leap. Patterson apparently hit her head on the floor of the Superdome and was pronounced dead on arrival at nearby Charity Hospital.

Eddie Chelette, a volunteer stagehand, said there were nine jumpers rehearsing the stunt from the uppermost Terrace Level, more than 100 feet above the field.

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“She jumped and, when she came back up [on the rubber bungee cord], she was limp,” he said.

The field was full of performers at the time of the accident but few were aware of the tragedy because the lights had been turned down and loud music was playing.

The performers, many of them youngsters, were in the sixth hour of an eight-hour practice session, the last before Sunday’s kickoff. Many left the Superdome in shock and tears after learning of Patterson’s death.

By Friday, police had not released details of an investigation to determine whether the accident was caused by faulty equipment or human error.

“Needless to say with a tragedy like this, the main focus is on the deceased and her family,” NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.

Patterson’s husband and sister, members of the bungee-jumping team, were in the Superdome when the accident occurred.

Bill Long, a spokesman for Select Productions of Tustin, the company that employs Patterson’s jump squad, said: “Last night a tragic accident occurred. We lost one of our own. Our business is made up of professionals who work with dedication and love to bring enjoyment to millions of people, and when an accident occurs, it affects all of our lives. We in the entertainment business are very much a family. We extend our condolences to the family of Laura Patterson.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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