By Steve Keenan, The Register-Herald
OAK HILL, W.Va. — As he strapped on a parachute and plunged into the New River Gorge void late on Friday, Aug. 17, 1979, Burton Ervin blazed an aerial trail to be followed by countless thrill-seekers since.
Ervin, a Korean War Army veteran from Webster County who eventually forged a 42-year career in the local coal mines, was credited as the first person to parachute from the New River Gorge Bridge 876 feet into the canyon below at 10:20 p.m. on that night.
Ervin’s jump was illegal and, to many, ill-advised. But it ended well, and it eventually provided the impetus for what has transformed into a famous Fayette County calling card.
A report at the time from the Richwood News Leader said about 200 spectators watched Ervin’s 1979 jump. Apparently some lighting was utilized to offer a bit of illumination to guide his jump, which reportedly ended in the New River…