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Kiwi killed in Wingsuit diving accident

Monday 31 Mar 2014 7:15 a.m.

Celebrated New Zealand wingsuit pilot Dan Vicary has been killed in an accident in Switzerland.

The 33-year-old, formerly from Invercargill, died along with 34-year-old Frenchman Ludovic Woerth after they jumped from a helicopter for a flight in an alpine valley.

A third man, whose age and nationality was not disclosed, was seriously injured.

The three men jumped from a helicopter over the Luetschental valley in the central canton of Bern on Saturday afternoon but all three crashed into a field.

Mr Vicary and Mr Woerth were both dead by the time rescue workers arrived on the scene, local police said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) said it was aware of the death of a New Zealander and had spoken with Mr Vicary's next-of-kin and local authorities. 

An MFAT spokeswoman said they are following up with local police regarding the nationality of the third injured person.

Tributes have flowed on social media for Mr Vicary, a professional base jumper, wingsuit pilot and skydiver who was living in Switzerland.

He coached and instructed in the sports, tested wingsuits and was a partner in Valley BASE gear, a base jumping supply shop with his wife Lisa Hutchins.

A number of people posted on his Facebook page, with many saying "RIP Dan, fly free". On his Facebook page, Mr Vicary described himself as a "sensation seeker".

"Dan Vicary has been chasing the dream of human flight since he was a boy."

His friend Lisa Chambers told 3 News she remembers him as a thrill seeker who believed in what he was doing.

"He was incredibly warm, lovely, approachable, he had a great outlook on life and was really passionate about what he was doing." 

She said he was particularly passionate about New Zealand. 

"He promoted it overseas as a wonderful destination and specifically Wanaka more than anything."

Mr Vicary wrote this month in Edge Magazine the biggest risk to basejumpers was themselves.

"We all like to improve and push ourselves to the limit, and we are all motivated people ... there is more to life than basejumping.

"I only ever do 20 percent of what I think I can do so that when I make a stupid decision (and I do sometimes - everyone does), at least I have a fair margin to get myself out of it," he wrote.

Mr Vicary had completed more than 6000 sky dives, 750 basejumps and 450 wingsuit flights.

The World Wingsuit League posted on its Facebook site: "Dan Vicary was dedicated professional BASEjumper and skydiver, his pursuit of flight in its rawest form took him from home in New Zealand across Australia to the Idaho Desert, remotest China, Thai beaches and Malaysian skyscrapers to Europe.

"Dan was loved and respected jumper and he will be missed by everyone. RIP."

A wingsuit is an aerodynamically designed jumpsuit with fabric between the legs and under the arms to enable flying.

Wingsuit flights usually end with a parachute opening to allow for a safe landing.

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

In 2012, Kiwi base jumper Alan McCandlish died after a fatal fall in Switzerland.

McCandlish, who was also wearing a winged suit, hit a rock wall, and plunged over a cliff.

3rd Degree reporter Sarah Hall spent a week with Dan Vicary this month, watching him fly from Sharks Tooth, a peak in the South Island, and talking to him about his love of adventure.

Tune in to 3rd Degree, Wednesday 8:30pm, for Dan's last NZ interview.

NZN / 3 News

 

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