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Russian Winter Resorts Under Scrutiny After Tragic 'Orbing' Accident


Denis Burakov (left) died when the orb he was riding in went out of control and plunged down a gorge.
Denis Burakov (left) died when the orb he was riding in went out of control and plunged down a gorge.
Safety at Russian ski resorts has come under scrutiny after a horrific "orbing" accident left one man dead and another seriously injured.

Denis Burakov, 27, died on January 3 when the orb -- a giant inflatable ball -- he was riding in veered off course and disappeared down a gorge at the Dombai ski resort in southern Russia's Caucasus Mountains.

Burakov's friend Vladimir Scherbakov, 33, was hospitalized with a concussion and multiple lacerations but ultimately survived the terrifying ordeal.

The activity is also known as "sphereing," "globe-riding," or "Zorbing" after one manufacturer of the giant, double-sectioned plastic spheres*.

A film of the incident shot by one of Burakov's friends has since surfaced on video-sharing sites.

It records the tragedy in horrifying detail, showing the orb lurch sideways off the gentle sloping course it was meant to follow. The sphere then begins to career out of control despite the efforts of a resort worker to catch it, before disappearing down a precipice.

WATCH: A Zorbing run goes tragically wrong at a Russian ski resort

Authorities say both men were thrown clear of the orb as it tumbled and were later found by skiers. Although Burakov was alive when he was pulled from the snow, he subsequently died of serious spine and neck injuries on his way to the hospital.

Amazingly, it's clear from the film that there were no barriers in place to protect the orb riders, despite the obvious risks involved.

The "Vesti" newspaper also reports that there were numerous other breaches of safety procedures, such as having two men riding in the orb at the same time and the lack of proper grips for grabbing the sphere in case it went out of control.

A Zorb (file photo)
A Zorb (file photo)
The paper also says that there was no flat landing area to slow the orb's momentum at the end of the ride and that the slope used for rolling the ball was far too bumpy to ensure a smooth and predictable descent.

The owner of the orb has since been arrested and an investigation into the incident is under way.

Sergei Loginov, deputy director of, the largest supplier of such orbs in Russia, told the AP news agency that the orbing run that killed Burakov was conducted in violation of all safety rules.

“It’s not even irresponsibility. It’s an experiment on life,” he said. “It’s all or nothing. They either survive or they don’t.”

The accident has prompted Russia's emergency situations minister to demand the stricter enforcement of safety regulations for winter sports.

Vladimir Puchkov told reporters during a televised conference that he had asked those in charge of Russia's rescue services to take extra measures to ensure safety, particularly on the country's ski slopes.

The orbing accident was just one of several incidents to occur in Russia at winter resorts during the holidays.

Just this week, six people were hospitalized in one day following accidents on the ski slopes of Kolomna near Moscow.

* CLARIFICATION: This post has been amended following a statement from Zorb Limited, a manufacturer of the spheres, expressing sorrow at the tragedy and stating that the "incident was not on an official ZORB site using globes not [sic] manufactured by us."

-- Coilin O Connor, with contributions from Pavel Butorin

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