Norwegian base jumper dies in Bern cliff crash

Police launched an investigation into the death of a 48-year-old Norwegian who died while base jumping this week in the Lauterbrunnen area of the Bernese Oberland.

Norwegian base jumper dies in Bern cliff crash
Base jumpers taking the plunge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The victim was with two colleagues and took off from a spot on the Mürrenfluh Mountain known as the “Ultimate High”, Bern cantonal police said on Tuesday.

The man took off around noon on Monday and crashed into a cliff face after a very steep flight, the force said.

Emergency officials from helicopter operator Air Glacier and the SAC rescue service responded immediately to a call for help but the man was found dead at the foot of a rock wall, according to police.

An inquiry aims to find out what exactly happened.

The fatal accident is at least the 33rd one linked to base jumping in the Lauterbrunnen area since 1994.

A 57-year-old Frenchman died on the Mürrenfluh on February 6th.

The area, close to the Wengen ski resort, is popular with base jumping enthusiasts because of its readily accessible mountain cliffs.

Base jumping is an extreme sport that involves jumping from high spots such as cliffs and buildings using special parachutes designed to break the fall.

Lauterbrunnen has been identified as a high-risk area by the Swiss Base Association, which warns enthusiasts to take precautions while jumping in the valley.


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Villages across Swiss Alps set to fight proposed base jumping ban

A proposal to ban base jumping in the Bernese Highlands has drawn criticism, with locals countering claims that the extreme sport is dangerous.

Villages across Swiss Alps set to fight proposed base jumping ban
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Kiener Nellen, a National Councillor in Bern, has instructed the Federal Council to consider a nationwide ban on the practice. 

Nellen said that the dangerous sport was harmful to Switzerland’s reputation, while also putting local rescue staff at risk. 

Nellen told the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen broadcasting company that base jumping ”endangers the reputation of Switzerland’s tourism industry and the Bernese Highlands”. 

An average of 4.5 deaths per year

More and more base jumps take place in Switzerland every year, with more than 30,000 completed in 2018.

While base jumping is becoming a more established practice, it remains unsafe. 

READ: British base jumper dies in Lauterbrunnen

Four people died base jumping in 2017 in Switzerland, down from nine in 2016 and ten in 2015. A total of 81 people have died in Switzerland since 2002, an average of 4.5 per year. 

'Not thoughtless weirdos'

Several have spoken out against the ban, arguing that the practice is becoming safer – and that it is crucial to the local economy. 

Aside from the money spent by the base jumpers when they stay in Switzerland, they are also required to buy a ‘Landing Card’. 

The money from these cards is paid back to local farmers who offer their properties as landing pads and began as an initiative of the base jumpers themselves. 

Base jumping. Michael Mathes / AFP

Annette Weber, who works at a cafe in the Bernese Highlands, told Swiss online newspaper Watson that the stereotype of irresponsible, risk-taking base jumpers was not accurate. 

“They’re not half-wild weirdos who throw themselves thoughtlessly off the cliffs,” she said. 

“It would be totally ridiculous to criminalize base jumping.” 

Lauterbrunnen Mayor Martin Stäger (SVP) agreed, saying that a ban would be not be effective. 

“The base jumpers mostly stick to the rules in our valley,” he said. 

“A ban would be completely counterproductive. How can such a ban be controlled?

“Then people would just jump at the unofficial, more dangerous places.”

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