Engineering Failure: Man Trapped on 300ft-High Bridge After Glass Shatters

Watch your step.
Brad Bergan
The glass bridge before and after its floor shattered.Xinhua / Weibo

A thrill-seeker in China was stuck on a glass-bottomed bridge in the aftermath of hurricane-strength winds that shattered sections of the walkway — forcing the man to cling perilously to life on the railing, according to an initial report from Xinhua, a state news agency.

And he may have crawled away with his life.

China's state-run media says the stranded man survived

The glass bridge is based at the scenic environs of Piyan Mountain — near the province of Jilin in northeastern China — which was swept by record-breaking winds on Friday, according to local authorities. The photo of the damaged bridge was shared on state media, and depicts the poor man clutching to life on the railing with entire sections of glass missing beneath. Luckily, the man gathered his wits and crawled to safety, according to the Xinhua report.

The bridge took damage from winds between 73 mph and 92 mph (117 km/h and 148 km/h) — which is roughly the same as the Safir-Simpson scale's Category 1 hurricane — a record high for the region. After moving himself out of the danger zone, the lucky (or unlucky) tourist was taken to a hospital for a check-up, and appeared to be in a "stable emotional and physical condition," according to China's state-run media, reports the BBC. But he survived a potential catastrophe.

The glass bridge is suspended 330 ft (100 m) in the air above Piyan Mountain, which means if the man plummeted he likely would not survive the impact below. Bizarrely, the driving force of attraction for many tourists seems to be the threat of impending death itself. For example, some of the bridges come with special visual effects that form fake cracks when you step on it. You read that right: there are bridges with glass floors suspended unconscionably high that pretend to crack when you step on them.

Tourists in China are very passionate about dangerous heights

One of these terrifying bridges is in Jilin. Just 8.2 ft (2.5 meters) wide and 984 ft (300 m) long, it was built in 2018 and costs roughly 16 dollars (100 Chinese yuan) to cross. The bridge was praised in promotional posts as the "perfect combination of nature's fine craftsmanship and human's intelligence," enabling tourists to engage in a "mind-shocking experience," according to a VICE News report.

China is suspected to have roughly 2,300 glass bridges, in addition to several glass walkways and slides — all designed to attract thrill-loving tourists while funneling in massive tourist capital. But several incidents like the one from last Friday have happened throughout the country. In 2018, all 32 glass attractions in Hebei were closed — including walkways, bridges, and viewing decks — to execute safety checks.

In 2019, someone died and six others suffered injuries when they fell from a glass slide in Guangxi province. And, in 2016, another tourist suffered injuries from falling rocks while walking across a glass walkway in Zhangjiajie city. While some local governments have halted approval for new glass-deck bridges, it seems the death drive is alive and well for tourists in China. We just hope all of them live to relate their experiences.

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