Wingsuiting has always been one of the riskiest sports out there. With more people trying it, the death rate is on the rise. As many as two wingsuit flyers are dying every year now! This was said by fatalities expert Dave Mandt who counts an increase in wingsuit fatalities since Bradley Trevor’s last flight in 2014.
This sport has become more popular due to the development of wingsuits, modern materials and movies like ‘Point Break’ which popularized it. Currently, there are about 500 active wingsuit pilots in the world – among them 200 who have their own suits while 300 rent theirs from UPT or APEX because they can’t afford to buy one.
The way you’re supposed to do it is fly under a helicopter which you’ll catch up against, then release yourself and gain speed before deploying your chute at 3,5 km altitude – this goes for BASE too of course. However, that’s not how newbies do it. They jump off cliffs without any proper training, without any proper gear – the result are fatalities.
The wingsuit which costs around $6,500 is usually rented from UPT or APEX for around $65 to $100 per jump. It also holds a serious ‘stigma’ amongst BASE jumpers- once you’ve flown it you can’t do anything else since it’s too expensive and you can’t afford to make a mistake. There is also the issue of not having enough experience and skills, which often leads to fatalities.
The highest number of fatalities in BASE/wingsuit flying goes to Trevor Petersen (he was killed in the same accident with Uli Emanuele) who died wingsuiting after his accident in 2009. Sadly, he was an experienced BASE jumper but not a wingsuit flyer.
The industry is trying to figure out the best way to lower the death rate in these sports since they are becoming more popular each year – in 2016 alone there were 9 fatalities! The easiest way to lower the death rate is to improve equipment, train more before you take it on, increase experience and buy your own equipment.
Has anyone survived a wingsuit crash?
A wingsuit is a lot more unforgiving because of the speed, meaning that even if you survive hitting the wall/ground – you’ll most likely die from internal injuries and broken bones (since they can’t control their bodies like usual). It’s much easier to repair a BASE jumper because the speed is much lower, landing on trees or even water is better for you than hitting the wall.
A man named Mark Roestenberg survived a very bad crash in 2011 because of his father’s years of experience as an orthopaedist. The gear he had was basic – not good enough to avoid injuries but good enough to give him a chance to survive.
Roestenberg broke his pelvis, both hips and legs as well as suffered a collapsed lung but he managed to make a full recovery after spending 15 days in ICU. He hasn’t been able to jump since – because you need at least 1 year of ‘landing training’ before you get back on this stuff!
Wingsuit deaths are on the rise since 2014.
The numbers of fatalities were low until 2014 – only two deaths. However, in 2015 four people died and there has been one death so far this year.
There is certainly a rise in awareness thanks to the work of Dave Mandt and Mark Roestenberg and hopefully everyone will start taking it more seriously.
There are 9 deaths in 2016 – meaning that there is one death every 2.5 months!
Dave Mandt has decided to count the number of fatalities since 2014, hoping that it will help lower the death rate by increasing awareness around this potentially dangerous sport.
Most recent wingsuit fatality goes to Josh Sheppard, who died on August 1st, 2016.
This is the list of all recorded fatalities since 2014:
- Riccardo Cassin (February 17th, 2015)
- Josh Sheppard (August 1st, 2016)
- Mark Sutton (August 24th, 2016)
With more people trying it out, the number of fatalities around this sport is only going to rise without proper education and low cost gear.
Both UPT and APEX have discounted gear for those who want to try it out, which is definitely a good way to increase awareness and hopefully we will see the number of fatalities drop soon.
This sport requires a lot of practice and education – research should be done on how people can become safe and effective wingsuit flyers.
It’s up to the industry itself to create something that will benefit everyone: not just users but also manufacturers.
Without proper education around this sport, we might see more deaths caused by ignorance or lack of information.
There are people out there who are responsible but they are outnumbered by the ones who don’t follow any rules.
The sport requires a lot of education and training, something that is obviously missing here.
Having low-cost equipment will help operators to hire more staff for this, which in turn will bring down the number of fatalities.
The focus should be on flight time & experience – not jumps.