• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

US wingsuit flyer dies after weekend accident

AFP/The Local · 3 Apr 2014, 15:42

Published: 03 Apr 2014 15:42 GMT+02:00

Drake, 33, passed away on Wednesday evening in hospital, Bern cantonal police said in a statement.

Police did not reveal the victim's name, but on its Facebook page the World Wingsuit League (WWL) identified him as Drake, saying he had been in a coma since Saturday's accident.

The league set up a special page in Drake's honour, where dozens of people posted messages and shared memories, photos and videos of his jumps and footage he shot of others in action.

"He was the most incredible, wise, kind, adventurous, funny, supportive, loving brother one could ever wish for," wrote his younger brother, Jordan Drake, in a moving tribute on the site.

Wingsuit divers wear special jumpsuits that add surface area to the body, enabling them to glide like a bird, before opening a parachute like a regular skydiver.

Drake was one of the biggest names in the wingsuit community, travelling the globe for competition meets and known for his breathtaking jumps.

Along with experienced wingsuit flyers New Zealander Dan Vicary, 33, and French wingsuit icon Ludovic Woerth, 34, Drake had jumped from a helicopter over the Lütschental near Bern last Saturday.

The trio had planned to land in the valley, but crashed into an Alpine pasture, police said.

Vicary and Woerth were found dead on site when rescuers arrived at the scene, and the American was rushed to a hospital by helicopter.

The investigation into the causes of the accident is ongoing, police said.

The wingsuit league offered its condolences to the family of the sportsman, who had moved from the United States to Europe to practise his sport.

The Swiss Alps are a magnet for wingsuit divers, base-jumpers and other extreme sports enthusiasts.

On its website, the Swiss newspaper Blick published an interview with French wingsuit diver Vincent Descols, who had made the same jump the previous day.

Descols told Blick that the cause of the accident appeared to be a dive-zone error after the three men jumped from the helicopter at an altitude of 2,750 metres (9,022 feet).

But instead of finding themselves above a deep gorge, as planned, they were actually above the flat pasture.

Unable to reach the safety of the gorge, they had just three seconds to open their parachutes, which was too little time.

"I'm really upset, but I'm not blaming anyone," Descols told Blick, saying that nobody would know how to react in such a high-pressure situation.

"All three of them were great flyers, and this could happen to any of us," he said.

Around 20 people are killed each year taking part in the extreme sport.

British wingsuit diver and stuntman Mark Sutton— best known for parachuting into the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony dressed as James Bond — died last August when he crashed into a Swiss mountain ridge after jumping from a helicopter.

This YouTube video from WWL, highlighting the exploits of another American wingsuit flyer, Jeb Corliss, illustrates the dangers involved:

Story continues below…

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
10 unspoken rules for fitting in with the Swiss
Photo: Stephan Schacher/Swiss Tourism

New to Switzerland? The Local shows you how to navigate your way through the Swiss social minefield.

Swisscom fined millions for dominating sports TV
Photo: Swisscom

Switzerland's main telecomms group has been fined 71.8 million Swiss francs by the Swiss competition authorities.

Swiss injured by neo- Nazi gunman in Austria
The shooting happened in the Vorarlberg region of Austria. Photo: Roland Vlach/AFP

A 49-year-old Swiss woman was among those injured by a neo-Nazi gunman at a rock concert in Austria.

Huge blaze burns down Swiss candle factory
Photo: Schwyz cantonal police

A candle factory in Einsiedeln became a victim of its own creations on Monday afternoon when a major fire broke out.

Farms in Swiss Jura to pilot refugee integration project
Volunteers will undertake manual labour on farms in the Jura. Photo: Mark Goebel

The pilot programme will offer refugees unpaid farming work to help them integrate.

WHO slams 'policy failures' for Zika crisis
File photo: AFP

The Geneva-based World Health Organization blames a lack of mosquito control in 1970s for the current Zika outbreak.

Singapore boots out scandal-hit Swiss bank
File photo: The Local

Singapore's central bank is kicking out Swiss bank BSI due to its links to a global money-laundering scandal.

French Open tennis
Stan the man survives first round scare
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Stan Wawrinka battles through five sets in his Roland Garros first round match.

Snow puts end to hottest weekend of year so far
Photo: Gstaad Tourism

Switzerland experienced a return to winter on Monday as snow fell in some places, a stark contrast to the weekend's warm weather.

Swiss aerial accidents leave three dead
File photo: Priyandarshi Ranjan

It was a deadly weekend in the skies over Switzerland.

File photo: Abhishek Jacob
Lifestyle
Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Culture
Dog day afternoon: Swiss saint meets Pope in Rome
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Business & Money
Pink diamond sold for record-breaking $31m in Geneva
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
File photo: Candida Performa
Lifestyle
Revealed: living in Switzerland could prolong your life
Photo: Cervo
Travel
In pictures: Switzerland’s most welcoming hotels
Photo: Aargau cantonal government
‘Beast of Rupperswil’ was local football coach
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Features
Geneva exhibition marks 200 years of Frankenstein
Photo AFP
National
Swiss basic income campaign sets Guinness world record
Photo: St Gallen police
Society
Police hunt killer of man shot dead in St Gallen street
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Society
Presumed jihadist could have Swiss nationality quashed
Photo: Zurich Zoo
Culture
Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
Swiss farmer loses appeal in row over noisy cow bells
Photo: Esparta Palmer
Health
44-year-old woman refused fertility treatment on insurance
File photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
Society
Jilted admirer shocks woman with tattoo... of her face
File photo: Flickr
Health
Swiss school eyes longer holidays for non-smoking staff
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
Swiss basic income vote: what you need to know
 Photo: Heinrich Plum
National
Lidl uses German mountain to promote its Swiss products
Photo: Illiz Architektur
This old Swiss army bunker is now an incredible new pool
Photo: Stephan Engler
National
Survey reveals some Swiss ‘never’ cross linguistic divide
Society
Swiss parliament snubs plan for two weeks paternity leave
File photo: Giovanni Blank
Lifestyle
Fathers should share parental leave, says commission
Photo: eGuide Travel
Society
Dictator-tracker spices up Geneva planespotting
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Politics
Swiss army ready to act in worst case migrant scenario
4,574
jobs available