Zorb survivor: 'Like being in a washing machine on full spin'

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

The survivor of a horror zorbing accident in Russia last month has spoken of the final moments before his friend's death and told of the "fear'' he saw in his eyes.

Shocking amateur video footage which captured the final moments of Denis Burakov, 27, as he plummeted over a cliff at a Russian ski resort went viral online.

The inflatable sphere veered off the snowy mountaintop and rolled down a ravine, bouncing over rocks for around 1km before stopping on a frozen lake, investigators said.

Burakov, a father-of-two, broke his back and later died.

Andrew Akers, who co-created zorbing, spoke of his disgust over the extreme activity's latest death, claiming it could severely damage New Zealand's reputation as the world's adventure capital.

Now, survivor of the January 3 accident Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, who escaped the ordeal with only a concussion, has spoken out for the first time.

"We were pinned to the walls of the ball and it was impossible to speak, spinning faster and faster and faster,'' he told The Sun newspaper.

"We tried to keep eye contact. There was fear in our eyes but there no shouts and screams.

"It was the most unforgettable sight of my life - to see Denis' eyes in front of me like that.''

Mr Shcherbov described how they had watched instructors do a practice run and thinking it looked "spectacular''.

They paid just NZ$11 for the ride - but didn't realise they were the organiser's first paying customers to go down the slope, which had no protective barriers or catch-nets.

"Looking back, there were a lot a violations but I didn't think of them at the time and never thought the zorb would turn down the precipice,'' Mr Shcherbov said.

Mr Burakov's fiance Katia, 25, watched in horror as the zorb picked up pace and went down the steep gorge.

The zorb was hurtling so fast down the hill, bouncing off rocks, that the friends were speechless.

Mr Shcherbov told The Sun: "It was like being in a washing machine on full spin.

"It was like in the movies, when it plays in slow motion.

"There were no shouts or screams - just fear - as I looked into Denis' eyes for the last time before everything went black.''

Rescuers were delayed getting to the bottom of Ganachhirskiy Gorge at the Dombai resort in Russia's North Caucasas mountains.

Burakov, who had two young daughters, died on the way to hospital.

Organisers of the ride are being investigated for criminal negligence, and face 10 years' jail.

"Later I looked at the video of us falling and it was a very painful experience, because I was lucky to survive and Denis wasn't,'' Mr Shcherbov said.

"I feel terrible for his family and I can't stop feeling the loss.

"I can't believe he is not here any more."

- APNZ

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