Wheelchair user rappels 40 stories for Special Olympics

SEATTLE — Even as he carefully inched his way down the front of a 40-story building Sunday, descending in a titanium wheelchair using climbing ropes about the diameter of a finger, Dale Doornek took time to savor the view.

From nearly 500 feet up, it was nothing short of spectacular, with the Olympic Mountains on the horizon and ferry boats and water taxis painting a fan-shaped plume of white foam in the deep blue water of Elliot Bay.

“It was pretty incredible,” Doornek said, “being able to look around.”

His descent from the 1000 Second Avenue Building in downtown Seattle took 27 minutes, 42 seconds.

“The entire experience was fun,” he said.

About halfway down, he could hear the crowd below chanting his name and shouting encouragement. He responded by waving with his black-gloved hands.

Doornek, of Sultan, was one of 160 participants in a rappelling event aptly named Over the Edge but the only person to do so in a wheelchair. And he is the first person in Washington to accomplish the feat.

The two-day event, which ended Sunday, was a fundraiser for Special Olympics Washington. Its goal was to raise $250,000, enough to train and send eight Special Olympic athletes to events for a year, said Dan Wartelle, spokesman for Special Olympics Washington.

Two climbers — John Miller of Seattle and Aaron Lennox of Port Townsend — coached Doornek on his descent.

Doornek was grinning as his wheelchair gently touched the sidewalk and onlookers burst into applause. “Oh, man, it totally rocks!” he said. “I would do it over again.”

Doornek was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1994. He has worked hard to keep fit, strengthening his upper body by going to the gym six days a week.

“I try to keep healthy and fit,” he said. A healthy lifestyle is important, in a wheelchair or not.”

In the past, he’s participated in bungee jumping in Australia, hang gliding off Tiger Mountain near Issaquah, skydiving in Snohomish and parasailing in Cancun, Mexico.

Doornek was dressed in a green and yellow clown suit, joining other participants who eschewed traditional climbing gear for outfits such as a red Mighty Mouse costume or a powder blue leisure suit.

The toughest part of Doornek’s decent wasn’t the point at which his wheelchair swung off the building’s roof and was suspended so far above the sidewalk, he said, but the steady, strenuous work of rappelling down the building.

“You have to get that flow down with the descender,” he said. “There are so many different safety devices keeping you in position.”

Doornek’s rappel was regulated by climbing gear that he would periodically squeeze to allow his wheelchair to slowly drop. A safety mechanism would bring him to a swift halt if the descent was too rapid.

“If you went too fast, you’d bounce,” he said.

And did that happen? “Numerous times,” he said. “You stop real quick and bounce.”

Doornek said that if his rappel down the skyscraper is seen as a pioneering act for someone with disabilities, “absolutely, that’s what we want.

“There are no limitations.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

More in Local News

Mayor tries new tactic to curb fire department overtime

Stephanson says an engine won’t go into service when the only available staff would be on overtime.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Paine Field fire chief will be allowed to retire

In his letter, the airport director noted Jeff Bohnet was leaving while under investigation.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

Lynnwood man allegedly cuts Marysville’s 911 dispatch wires

The man reportedly told police he intended to trade the wires for drugs.

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Most Read