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  1. ITV Report

The man who founded bungee jumping with illegal leap from Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge

David Kirke leapt from the bridge in 1979. Credit: ITV News West Country

David Kirke is the man who invented a sport enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people - and he has not made a penny from it.

On April 1st 1979, the then 33-year-old member of Oxford University's 'Dangerous Sports Club' peered over the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Wearing the club's trademark morning suit - and a mask over his face so his mother wouldn't recognise him in the newspapers - he leapt.

David and three others took part in the bungee. Credit: David Kirke

Mr Kirke was connected by elasticated cords tied to Brunel's famous bridge.

Bungy jumping - Kirke originally spelled the word with a 'y' not 'ee' - had been invented.

Three other club members peered over the edge of the bridge. Noticing David Kirke had bounced back and was safe, they too leapt over.

One of the students being pulled back up on to the bridge. Credit: David Kirke

But the authorities were not happy. The four men were pulled up and arrested by police.

Today bye-laws prohibit bungee jumping at the bridge - and few places in the UK would allow it.

The Dangerous Sports Club later tried bungee jumping elsewhere in the world, in the USA and in Japan.

Inspired by their work, Kiwi AJ Hackett developed the sport from 1988 and New Zealand became the unofficial home of bungee jumping.

Forty years after its invention, few realise that the sport's origins are from a Victorian bridge in the West Country.

David bungee jumped from the same bridge in 2000, to mark the sport's 21st anniversary. Credit: ITV News

David Kirke went on to try to develop Microlighting and other extreme sports. He was fired from an aircraft launcher from a cliff in Ireland, breaking his spine in three places.

His fellow jumpers have found success in other realms. Simon Keeling became a financier, Alan Weston became Director of Programs at NASA. The fourth jumper was Tim Hunt - brother of the racing driver James.

Mr Kirke believes the Clifton Suspension Bridge should be closed occasionally to hold bungee jumping sessions, an idea which horrifies the Bridgemaster.

The Trustees of the Clifton Suspension Bridge take their responsibilities to protect such an iconic landmark, enjoyed by many, very seriously.

The Trust does not condone or endorse bungee jumping from the Bridge.

Bungee jumping could cause potentially serious damage to the bridge itself, risk the safety of the bungee jumpers themselves and cause distress to visitors.

– Trish Johnson, Bridgemaster

While the sport will not return to the bridge, perhaps recognition of its place in bungee jumping history needs to bounce back.