A THRILL-SEEKING cliff jumper who had a lucky escape after backflipping off a County Durham waterfall has warned others not to try it.

Matty Harper, of Bradford, travelled to High Force waterfall, in Teesdale, on Sunday as part of a group to carry out the 62ft jump.

The Northern Echo:

JUMP: Matty Harper says he is lucky to be alive after jumping off High Force waterfall in Couty Durham

Watched by horrified visitors, the 25-year-old performed what he described as a “tsukahara, front flip 180 to backflip” from the top of the waterfall.

However, despite carrying out a risk assessment prior to the jump, Mr Harper said he had underestimated the risk and was “lucky to be alive” after the strong current held him under for about seven seconds.

“I feel lucky to be alive, to anybody else thinking of jumping this waterfall, please do not! It is definitely not safe,” he said. “We knew the risks and wanted to jump, I was held under for about seven to eight seconds and it was a real struggle to swim to the surface. I thought I’d be ok where I jumped, I wasn’t.”

Mr Harper, who has been involved in extreme sports from a young age and taking part in cliff jumping since he was 14, admitted he had been “reckless”.

He said: “I’m not a professional however I train a lot, and very hard, we didn’t just throw ourselves off willy nilly, we practised and have a lot of experience.”

He added: “We discussed safety for at least an hour before we jumped, having two people at the water’s edge with ropes at the ready.

“I was definitely lucky to get out. I seriously suggest no one ever jumps this fall, it is not safe, I behaved reckless, and am happy to be alive. However, people can do what they want and if they jump it is nothing to do with me, they know the consequences and jump at their own risk.”

Mr Harper, who also goes by the nicknames Jimi Sendrix and Josef Flipzl, apologised to his mum who he said was “very relieved” when he got home to Bradford that night.

The Northern Echo:

JUMP: Matty Harper has been cliff jumping from a young age

A video capturing the jump has also had more than 80,000 views from his Instagram account 'ruffriderinnit'.

However, Facebook users have been quick to condemn the stunt, with many pointing to the danger of encouraging others to try it.

Many made reference to several people who have lost their lives at the waterfall in recent years including Hartlepool teenager Curtis Atherton, who died after getting into difficulty whilst swimming with friends in 2016.

On learning of the jump, Durham Constabulary have reissued a warning for people not to enter the “extremely dangerous body of water”.

“There have been a number of fatalities over the years. One of the most recent being a young male who entered the water to swim, this was during the summer months when weather conditions were good, this highlights that even during normal weather conditions it is incredibly dangerous to enter the water at this location,” a spokesman said.

“Over the weekend weather conditions were extremely dangerous with water levels being unusually high, the male was incredibly lucky to have left the water unscathed.”

The Northern Echo:

WARNING: Matty Harper and his girlfriend Chelsea Wood

Ed Turner, Teesdale Neighbourhood Inspector said: “This activity is totally unacceptable and I do not condone such irresponsible behaviour. Having reviewed the footage and comments on social media I am encouraged that there has been an overwhelming negative reaction.”

Steve Owers, team leader of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team also appealed to members of the public not copy the behaviour.

He said: “My main concern is that not only does this type of behaviour put the emergency services in danger but if this male had got into difficulties members of the public, or even his friends may have been tempted to try and help endangering more lives, this incident could have had a very different outcome.”