The Jet d'Eau has been a staple of Geneva's skyline for more than 130 years — and shoots water at a speed of 124 miles per hour.
A young man in Geneva was taken to the hospital after a rather violent encounter with one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks, the Jet d’Eau fountain.
As the BBC reported, the man, whose name has not been made public, was launched into the air by the sheer force of the Jet d’Eau’s fountain before landing on the concrete below.
For context, the Jet d’Eau propels roughly 110 gallons of water upward per second, reaching more than 450 feet in the air — 150 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Put another way, the fountain is shooting out water at a speed of 124 miles per hour.
The young man, believed to be in his 20s, reportedly crossed the barriers that surround the fountain. For some reason, he then attempted to put his face on the nozzle from which the water was pumped, only to be thrown backward.
Not to be deterred, the young man approached a second time — this time trying to wrap his arms around the fountain and quickly being thrown up into the air by the force of the water.
He came crashing down on the concrete walkway nearby, then, to the surprise of passers-by, dove into Lake Geneva before local authorities came by to take him to the hospital.
“Police officers came and asked to urgently shut off the Jet d’Eau to be able to go get him,” one witness said.
The Swiss electric company that runs and operates the fountain, SIG, said it will be filing a complaint against the man for trespassing.
The Jet d’Eau, which literally translates to “water jet,” has been a staple of the Geneva skyline since the 19th century — and has been one of the city’s most famous landmarks ever since. According to House of Switzerland, to many, the towering fountain of water stands as a symbol of the city’s ambition and vitality.
And apparently, it only came about due to a technical issue.
“It’s a bit of a fluke that there’s a water jet in Geneva,” said SIG’s Hervé Guinand.
Between 1850 and 1890, Geneva’s population boomed from only 64,000 to more than 100,000. As a center of industry and trade, new technology was popping up in Geneva, and these new machines required a significant amount of power.
To provide power to these new machines, engineers exploited the current of the Rhône River, constructing a hydraulic pump that could use water to power factory machinery — particularly in watchmaking workshops.
At night, however, once workers had gone home for the day, excess pressure built up in the system. Engineers initially had to rush to stop each pump individually — until they added a safety valve to control the pressure. The byproduct of this safety valve was a massive fountain of water spraying up into the sky.
At the time, the water only reached a height of roughly 150 feet. Eventually, engineers worked out a system that no longer required the massive fountain to spray out into the air — but locals and visitors alike had grown rather fond of the fountain’s intermittent spraying.
The city of Geneva decided to officially establish the jet as a tourist attraction. They also moved it to a more visible spot along the harbor, where it stands to this day.
Initially, it was only in operation on Sundays and public holidays, but it proved to be so popular that the city began to turn it on occasionally on weekdays. The problem was that it drew its water from the public drinking water system.
Then, in 1951, it was modified again, propelling water higher into the air and pulling directly from the lake, where it would pass through a filtration system before being shot up into the air.
The same pumps have been in use ever since, though the city has made some additional enhancements to the fountain, including an LED projector box that can light up the fountain with a variety of colors.
After reading about this strange incident and learning the history of the Jet d’Eau, read about the time a Belgian mayor’s heart was found inside a jar in a fountain. Then, read about a monument that’s said to be even more dangerous: Kindlifresserbrunnen, a supposed child-eating statue in Bern.