“In light of the overwhelming tragedy at Mt Everest and respect for the families of the fallen, Discovery Channel will not be going forward with Everest Jump Live,” the network said in a statement early Sunday afternoon, adding, ” Our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Sherpa community.” On Friday morning NBC News, whose Peacock Productions is producing Discovery’s Mount Everest live jump, had said “the future of the production will be assessed at the appropriate time” after an avalanche occurred Thursday night — the deadliest disaster ever recorded at the peak.
On Saturday, the project’s star, Joby Ogwyn had tweeted that the project would continue, a charity would be set up “to take care of our fallen Sherpa and those who could fall in the future,” and that his jump had taken on a larger meaning:
Today is a brighter day. We are staying on the mountain to honor our friends and complete our project. Soon I… http://t.co/oQmhjpuMHV
— Joby Ogwyn (@jobyogwyn) April 20, 2014
But Discovery and other participants decided otherwise and the decision to pull the plug was made this morning.
The Nepalese government put the death toll at 13 Saturday. The victims, Sherpa guides, were carrying equipment and supplies to camps for climbers getting ready for peak trekking season — including those preparing to participate in Discovery Channel‘s Everest Jump Live, produced by the NBC News division.
Discovery, which had just announced Monday the live two-hour event would air May 11, said Friday morning its star Ogwyn was at base came at the time of the avalanche, which struck a group of about 50 Nepalese sherpas at more than 20,000 feet. ”The avalanche last night on Mt. Everest is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are lost and with their families,” Discovery said Friday in response to questions about the fate of the jump telecast. “The immediate priority for Joby and the team is to assist the search and rescue efforts in anyway possible.”
NBC News said Friday its crews were on Mt. Everest preparing for Discovery’s special — in which Ogwyn had been scheduled to climb Everest and leap from the summit wearing only a winged suit equipped with cameras – when the avalanche struck.
“The biggest tragedy of this is that it’s the very beginning of the [climbing] season and to lose this number of people at the very beginning of the season may be the end of the season here,” cameraman Ed Wardle told NBC’s Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie.
“I think a lot of people are wondering whether it’s appropriate to go on, given the scale of this tragedy,” Guthrie quickly jumped in when Wardle’s “biggest tragedy” talk took that cold turn.
The avalanche is the deadliest disaster ever recorded at Everest. The previous record holder was the snowstorm that killed eight climbers on May 11, 1996 — an account of which was recorded in Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book Into Thin Air which, in turn, was made into a TV movie. Universal Pictures has set a September release date for its film Everest, also based on that tragedy. NBC News and Universal both are part of Comcast and its crews were there working on both projects.