Object Type: Earth
Location: Stangenwand, Austria
Clothes / Suit: Wingsuit V4
At approximately 4:30 am on the 6.9.13, Five jumpers met at a service station to head out into the Austrian Alps for an experienced wingsuit jump. There were 4 local Austrian jumpers and myself, an Australian jumper. All jumpers were experienced and 3 out of the 5 jumpers had previously jumped this particular object. All were proficient wingsuit flyers.
Although early, the mood was very cool and exiting. We arrived at the start of the hike to find quite a lot of early morning fog, which obstructed the view of the top of the mountain but as a group we decided to start the hike with the hope that the fog would lift. Although a long hike (3 hours approx) it was not a dangerous one and we could turn back at any time if the weather got worse.
The hike took us directly up the same line that we would soon fly so the whole way we knew the gradient of the terrain. The terrain was quite smooth but also slightly flat in some sections and was a jump for big suits only. Because of the coming and going cloud cover on the walls of the valley, there was no way for the 2 jumpers that hadnt jumped this wall before to get 100% view of the different lines that could be flown. The deceased jump had flown this jump just 1 week before.
After a long and pleasant hike with friends we arrived at the top and the gear up area to mixed cloud cover and only glimpses of the ground below. It was not too cold as the sun was coming out on occasion so we decided to wait on the exit point until it cleared up. We sat on the exit point for approximately 1 hour. The mood was still great as we joked and told stories.
At one point, the deceased went to go and look for another exit point and was gone for some time. During this time the sky opened up and was clear and safe to jump. The four of us remaining geared up and went down to the exit point, which was a very clean and safe exit point. The rock drop was between 7 & 8 seconds.
Not knowing if the cloud would come back in again, we decided to start jumping before the deceased returned. The first two jumpers exited and had good, safe flights disappearing around the corner. I was finishing my gear up when the deceased arrived back. He came to the exit point to watch the last two of us jump but was not geared up himself. I went next and had a good exit and a great overseeing flight. I personally understood after exiting that this jump was not so much a proximity flight but just a beautiful flight in the Alps. I decided not to go to close to anything but to fly over everything and check it all out. The talus was long and not so steep.
From here on in it is not 100% sure what happened but we are also pretty certain ..
The last jumper exited and had a safe flight to landing. I flew to another landing area further down the valley and waited there for some time for the last 2 jumpers. I only saw 1 jumper. After some time I went to the trail to find one of the jumpers walking back to try to contact the deceased jumper by phone as they had not seen him fly out and should only have been no more than 10 minutes behind us.
The question was asked that maybe he had gone to jump the new exit point that he had found in which case we wouldve kicked his butt but this was just an assumption and we were almost certain this would not be the case.
Eventually we all walked out to the car park and one of the jumpers headed back to the landing area with a radio in hope the deceased would land there. In time though we knew something was not right and the rescue helicopter and police were called in to help with the search.
We were all content to bring emergency crews in, in hope that this would just be an embarrassing moment for us base jumpers.
This took way longer than we thought and we all became worried for the worst. The rescue chopper finally came and flew straight up into the gorge to start the search. After approximately 10 minutes the chopper came back and landed. This is when we received confirmation that Bernie was dead.
The Assumption ..
The deceased was a very experienced & talented skydiver and was just getting into wingsuit proximity flying. After viewing his camera angle it appeared he had a good exit and flight but whilst proxy flying the right line he turned right into the terrain up a crack. However this was the wrong crack and it came to a dead end with no way out. The line he should have flown was another 20 meters further down the valley.
After viewing my head cam angle from flying above all the features, it is clear to see the dead end crack into which he flew.
Something to think about
It is so important to know the lines you are flying and to not go too hard on them until you have a full understanding of where you are going. Turning around blind features is extremely risky unless you know exactly what is around the corner.
So many wingsuit fatalities could have been prevented if the people just slowed down a little and checked out the terrain properly. You dont have to do everything this year, you can save something for the future. Longevity is the key.
BASE Fatality List
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