Button-down tax man busts loose with death-defying leap in Florida CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

August 02, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Some of Stephen V. Dutterer's co-workers around Westminster City Hall think he's been holding out on them. He never told them he has a double life.

Fifty weeks a year, Mr. Dutterer is a mild-mannered director of finance, supervising the department that collects city property taxes, pays the government's bills and puts together its annual budget.

But let him get away for 10 days in Florida and he dives off a platform 185 feet in the air to bounce at the end of a bungee cord.

"Steve is so quiet. You don't expect that sort of thing out of him," said Denise Russ, city planning department secretary.

"I think it's great he had the nerve to do it," said Darlene Childs, tax account coordinator/personnel specialist. "I wouldn't do it, unless it was over water. I might try it over water."

"I would never have believed [that Mr. Dutterer would do] that," said Jeffrey D. Glass, city sewage treatment plant supervisor.

Dale A. Taylor, city accounting coordinator, was less surprised because he and his boss share an adventurous streak. "I want to do it myself," Mr. Taylor said.

The people closest to Mr. Dutterer weren't surprised either, although his wife, Dot, who is assistant principal at Westminster Elementary School, was less than enthusiastic about her husband and son, Tim, going bungee jumping.

Now that they're back in Westminster, she said, "It's been a real conversation piece."

Friends tell her that they can understand why 15-year-old Tim, a junior at Westminster High School, wanted to jump. But they do a double take when Mrs. Dutterer adds that her 49-year-old husband also jumped.

People have asked to see the videotape, she said.

The Dutterers were accompanied on their vacation by another Westminster family, three of whose members -- father, son and daughter -- also jumped.

Mrs. Dutterer knew her husband and son might seize the chance to go bungee jumping in Florida. They had talked about it after Tim saw jumpers on television.

"It looked fun, it looked challenging and it was something I knew a lot of people wouldn't want to do," Tim said.

He said he wasn't surprised when his father agreed to join him. They are alike in enjoying what Tim calls "thrill stuff," roller coaster and similar amusement rides.

Mr. Dutterer said he has never tried parachuting, although bungee jumping has a similar appeal. He has gone white water rafting on the Youghiogheny River.

Mr. Dutterer wanted the bungee jump to be daring, not foolish. So when he found a place called Radical Sensation Bungee in Orlando, he checked it for safety as thoroughly as possible.

The body harnesses worn by the jumpers at Radical Sensation can be connected to the bungee cord at the waist or ankle. The Dutterers both opted for waist attachments.

On July 12, while the Westminster City Council was accepting the monthly financial report, the finance director was in Orlando climbing into a metal cage that would be hoisted by a crane high above the lights of nearby Universal Studios. On the videotape, the commentator asks Mr. Dutterer, "Are you nervous?"

"No," he replies.

Mr. Dutterer said he didn't really have time to think about it. The guys who fitted the harness and attached the cord were joking and talking. It wasn't an atmosphere for contemplating risk and the meaning of life.

Tim admits that he was scared. "But when you got up there you didn't have time to think about it. When they said, '3-2-1-Bungee!' you just kind of did it."

The instructions were to dive off the platform as if you were diving into a pool. After you take the dive, Mr. Dutterer said, "It all takes care of itself."

The initial jump cost $40 apiece. The staff at Radical Sensation promised a second jump for $25 to anyone who brought in his or her certificate as proof of having completed a jump.

Mrs. Dutterer said she thought one jump per lifetime would be enough.

But Mr. Dutterer isn't so sure. "I'm not saying I'll do it again, but who knows?" he said. "If I happen to wander by there and have my certificate, maybe I'll try it by the ankle."

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