In a stunt that seems like every claustrophobe’s worst nightmare, a daredevil successfully escaped from handcuffs and a locked box dropped from an airplane 14,500 feet in the air Tuesday — in less than a minute.
Here’s how it worked, according to the Associated Press: a plane took off in Ottawa, Illinois, southwest of Chicago. When it reached about 14,500 feet, Wisconsin escape artist Anthony Martin, 47, was helped into the box, and his hands were handcuffed to his belt. Then he was locked inside with a prison door lock that doesn’t have a key.
A small parachute called a drogue attached to the top of the box was “tossed” from the door, pushing the whole thing out of the aircraft. The box was supposed to be plummeting at 140 mph. While two men were positioned on either side to keep it stable, it kept rocking back and forth, which was “disorienting,” as Martin told the AP afterwards.
While the CNN video above does not show his miraculous escape up close, the AP reports that at about 6,500 feet, Martin pried open the lock within 30 seconds, busted open the door, and “somersaulted” out. He then activated a parachute and landed safely on a farm in nearby Serena, Illinois. (You can watch this exclusive video of the escape from ABC News to see it from a different angle.)
Martin, who has been picking locks since he was six years old, told reporters after the jump, “Praise God it all went good. It’s good to be here and it’s good to be alive.” He told Good Morning America that most of his training for the jump focused on skydiving, not lockpicking or escaping, since he does both of those stunts on the ground all the time.
The Aug. 6 feat marked the 25th anniversary of the first time he pulled it off during his 17th skydive at age 22 —not to mention the release of his new book Escape or Die: An Escape Artist Unlocks the Secret to Cheating Death. Past stunts include another aerial handcuff escape over Snake River Canyon, escaping from a locked metal cage submerged in ice water, and freeing himself from a locked jail cell while bound in a straight jacket. He has also been a regular on Ripley’s Believe It or Not!.
Earlier this summer, another daredevil, Nik Wallenda, stunned Discovery Channel viewers by surviving a tightrope-walk 1,500 feet above Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon on June 23.