Yaiza Schmöhe, a doctor of Theoretical Physics and Cosmology, entered the Axe Apollo Space Academy competition, run by Spanish deodorant brand Axe, which belongs to Unilever, in 2013.
Competitors were put through their paces in several disciplines, including mental aptitude tests and zero-gravity training, with the aim of making it through to the final 22 – who would win a trip to space.
Yaiza travelled to Ibiza along with 20 other Spanish applicants to battle it out for the two places available for Spaniards. They would be taking part in a “blob jump”, during which one person sits at the end of a partially inflated airbag while two or three others jump onto the other end and send the person flying into the air.
When it was Yaiza’s turn, she flew much further than expected, slamming into the water face first wearing a home-made astronaut suit.
“Despite the organizers’ promise that it was safe, something failed,” Yaiza wrote in the petition she uploaded to change.org
“I never thought taking part in a competition organized by the well-known brand Axe would ruin my life,” she said.
Organizers had said she would be flung five to six metres in the air but she flew “to a much greater height, around 12.5 metres, the equivalent of a five storey building”.
All this took place at night, with heavy spotlights trained on Yaiza, temporarily blinding her making it impossible to see the water and prepare for impact.
“I couldn’t prepare myself for the impact and I hit the water face-first,” she said.
The result was “two broken bones in the face, wounds to the neck and knees and a disability of 48 percent”.
Despite the severity of her injuries all Yaiza got from the organizers were “two Ibruprofen”.
“I had to make my own way to the nearest hospital in a taxi,” she said in her petition.
The hospital carried out an “emergency operation” on Yaiza 48 hours later, fitting titanium mesh under her cheek in an attempt to save her eye. The eye was saved but left her with permanent double vision.
“The competition has ruined my life,” she said, “and they will never be able to change that”.
Yaiza, who has now been signed off work for 800 days, is calling for Unilever, which owns the competition’s organizer, Axe, to assume responsibility for her accident.
Her change.org petition has already collected nearly 250,000 signatures since Thursday.
“Big companies like Unilever need to understand that people are more important than products,” insisted Yaiza, who hopes that “they never again play with people’s lives for a bit of publicity”.
Axe Spain released a statement via its Facebook page on Tuesday, saying that the blob jump was organized by a different company, Eleven, and that participants took part “at their own risk”.
“Space Jump was a risky activity. This was known by the participants who assumed their own risk and signed a contract proving this.”
“After this campaign of a systematic and discriminate spreading of one version of the facts, which is biased and has little basis in reality, the company reserves the right to take legal action to defend its repution.”