"He just climbed over the rail of the gallery and dove off, "said witness James Bryant, 19, an American tourist. "A few seconds later, he landed and was gone."
He has not been captured. The British tabloid Today described the parachutist as a 21-year-old daredevil who specializes in hazardous low-level BASE jumping. (BASE stands for buildings, antennae, spans and earthbound objects, such as cliffs.) Today reported that he and a group of accomplices had planned the St. Paul's leap for more than a year. The young man, using the pseudonym Chris Scott, was quoted as saying, "I just jumped, and my mate in the gallery pulled the cord. I just missed an old lady. I'm on a high now."
Officials at Sir Christopher Wren's 17th-century baroque masterpiece, one of London's great tourist attractions, were not so thrilled. The Reverend Christopher Hill, who was afternoon duty canon when the leap took place, said, "The staff were quite distressed about it because we had a suicide 12 months ago from about the same spot, and this stupid stunt brought back the whole horror of that."
Meanwhile, the police are looking for the mysterious jumper, who could face two months in jail. They have one major clue: In his rush to escape, the young man abandoned his parachute.
Like one of Milton's angels plummeting from Heaven, the young man hurtled from the Whispering Gallery of London's St. Paul's Cathedral and plunged 102 feet to the marble-tiled floor on the afternoon of Oct. 18. The jumper, who in lieu of wings used a rectangular parachute similar to the safety chute favored by hang gliders, quickly fled the cathedral, leaving a throng of bewildered tourists and unamused Anglican clerics.