An inflatable ball ride, also known as a "zorbing" ride, down the beginner's slope at a Russian ski resort took a turn for the worst on Jan. 3 when the ball veered off course and plummeted uncontrollably down the precipice of a mountain, killing one of the riders and seriously injuring the other.
The tragedy occurred at Dombai ski resort, located at Mount Mussa-Achitara in the Caucasus Mountains of Southern Russia, when two men, 27-year-old Denis Burakov and Vladimir Shcherbakov, 33, strapped themselves into a zorb, which bears the resemblance of a giant plastic bubble and consists of two polyurethane balls separated by a gap of air.
A home-made video filmed by a friend of one of the victims shows an attendant giving the ball a soft push and the giant zorb slowly rolling down a groomed, fairly mild bunny slope.
As the ball reaches the end of the slope, however, it rolls up a small hill, gaining substantial speed as it rolls back down.
The ball then veers to its right, off course, and begins heading towards a rather steep precipice on the side of the mountain.
One attendance appears to be intensely trying to stop the ball, but ultimately falls in the snow. The eight-minute film then shows the ball quickly gaining speed as it disappears in the shadow of the mountain, plummeting recklessly across jagged rocks and untouched snow.
The ball finally rolled to a stop at a frozen lake in the Ganachhirskiy Gorge, but the two men had been previously ejected as the ball had picked up speed.
According to the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Burakov, a married father of two, suffered a broken neck and spine, and was pronounced dead en route to the hospital.
Shcherbakov was also severely injured with a concussion, scratches and bruises, and conflicting reports indicate that has possibly been released from the hospital.
"It's not even irresponsibility. It's an experiment on life," Sergei Loginov, deputy director of Z-orb.ru, the largest supplier of zorbs in Russia, told the The Associated Press of the reckless way in which this particular zorb ride took place.
"It's all or nothing. They either survive or they don't," Loginov added.
An investigation is currently taking place to see to what extent safety measures were ignored in this zorb exercise.
Zorbs, which initially came about as a popular recreational activity in the 1980s, are usually ridden down a small grassy hill with fencing on either side and a pit at the end to stop the giant rolling ball.
Watch the "Russian Inflatable Ball Ride Goes Wrong" video: