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U.S. skydiver frees himself from locked box, lands safely

By Mike Robinson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. daredevil Anthony Martin escaped Tuesday from a locked box dropped from an airplane at 14,500 feet after freeing himself from handcuffs and picking the lock in under a minute.

"I praise God it all went good," the 47-year-old an escape artist from Sheboygan, Wisconsin told reporters afterward in comments carried on the Website of Chicago television station WLS. "It's good to be here. It's good to be alive."

He was reprising a stunt he did 25 years ago that his closest associates considered one of his most dangerous.

In the stunt, Martin's hands were cuffed to a belt around his waist and his right arm was chained to the inside of the box. Locksmiths scrambled the box's lock so it could not be opened with a key.

Martin had about 40 seconds from the time he was launched into 120 mph free-fall to pick the lock, get out of the box, launch a parachute and land safely on the ground.

"I know what it's like being the guy in the box, but I don't know what it looks like on video. I can't wait to see," Martin told reporters.

A Skyvan twin-turbine plane took off from an airstrip near Ottawa, Illinois, southwest of Chicago and the box was dropped from a cargo bay over a field at Serena, about 5 miles away.

Two skydivers jumped along with Martin to stabilize the box, which was fitted with a parachute that provided stability but did not significantly slow the rate it fell. They were not equipped to open the box and rescue Martin if he failed.

Martin's longtime skydiving stunt coordinator, Rook Nelson, said before the feat he was confident the escape artist could complete the stunt but described it as highly dangerous.

Martin's personal website says he has escaped from handcuffs and manacles while skydiving, has been lowered under the ice in steel cages, gotten out of locked prison cells after being put in a straight jacket and escaped from a locked steel safe.

(Editing by David Bailey, Andrew Hay and Cynthia Osterman)

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