Russia probes deadly 'zorb' accident

Russia has launched an investigation into the death of a 27-year-old man in an inflatable "zorb" ball that tumbled down a mountainside in a horrific accident that was caught on video, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Denis Burakov, 27, died of his injuries after he and a friend, Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, paid to roll in the zorb down an unfenced snow slope at a ski resort in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia region of the North Caucasus.

"We have launched a criminal case into causing death through providing unsafe services," said Sergei Shuvayev, spokesman for the regional investigative committee. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of six years.

The zorb veered off a snowy track and rolled into a gorge, continuing for around a kilometre before stopping on a frozen lake, investigators said. The accident occurred on January 3.

"As a result of the fall, Burakov died of his injuries, while Shcherbov was hospitalised with serious injuries," investigators said in a statement.

Shcherbov "is in a serious state but his life is not in danger," Shuvayev told AFP on Wednesday.

Investigators have identified two organisers who have not been detained but "will be questioned in the near future," Shuvayev said.

Zorbing is an extreme adventure sport invented in the 1990s in which participants roll down slopes strapped inside large transparent plastic balls.

In a video of the incident posted on the Internet, organisers can be heard saying the ride cost 300 rubles ($10) per person.

People watching can be heard asking organisers: "What is down there?" as the zorb rolls over the edge of the gorge.

"A catastrophe," one replies.

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