Mark Sutton was killed in a terrifying wingsuit accident after hitting a mountain ridge at 155 mph. The professional skydiver was the famous James Bond stuntman during the London Olympics opening ceremony. Sutton was 42 years old.
Mark Sutton, regarded as among the best wingsuit flyers in the world, was invited to EpicTV's extreme sporting event in Martigny, Switzerland, along with 19 other professional skydivers. Wingsuit jumping are the latest evolution in base jumping, where flyers brush as close to the edge of the mountain as possible before opening their chutes to land. The accident occurred just moments after Sutton leaped from a helicopter 10,800 feet over the Swiss Alps on August 14.
The leap was meant to be an "open-air warm-up" run to get the wingsuit pilots acquainted to the mountainous terrain. Friend Tony Uragallo, who owns a wingsuit company, accompanied Mark Sutton on the jump. The two extreme athletes were both equipped with GoPro cameras to film their decents. The flyers intended to land near the hamlet of Le Peuty, near Trient.
According to reports, Mark Sutton exited the helicopter and inexplicably veered away from the intended route down the side of the mountain. Sutton struck the mountain ridge just 20 seconds after jumping out from the helicopter.
"He hit the mountain at a speed of about 250 kmh," announced a Valais police spokesman. "There was no chance of survival. The altitude of the ridge was about 2000 to 2400 metres.
"There were three people in the helicopter - the helicopter pilot and two wingsuit flyers. One of the flyers landed safely. When the other one failed to land, a representative from the production company who was on the ground called the emergency services.
"When Uragallo realized that Sutton will not be landing with him, he immediately alerted the organizers and dispatched the emergency Air Glacier rescue helicopter. Mark Sutton was discovered on the mountain side and was tragically pronounced dead at the scene. Sutton's body was flown to a morgue nearby Sion. Uragallo phoned Sutton's girlfriend Victoria Homewood of the fatal accident.
"A rescue helicopter arrived at the scene and medics pronounced the man dead. The body was removed from the scene in the rescue helicopter and police began an inquiry at the scene. This was an accident. The production company and helicopter company are not implicated in any way."
An EpicTV spokesperson shared details following the terrible incident.
"Mark Sutton and Tony Uragallo were on the third flight of the day. It was 11am. The flight was an open-air warm-up flight. It was to last about 60 seconds. They were filming each other and Tony had Mark in view and then lost him. It is not known why.
"All other pilots that morning had been very conservative. They were all scheduled to do a lot of flights that day, Mark included. Mark's accident happened about 20 seconds after he left the heli. He had not yet deployed his parachute, with which he was equipped for the landing.
"Tony, understandably, has chosen not to fly today. He has taken the day off. We completely stepped back and said it was for all the participants to decide whether to still go ahead with the event. They decided to go ahead in honour of Mark.
"Wingsuiting is an extreme sport and there are risks, just as there are with extreme skiing or Formula 1 racing. Accidents happen."
Mark Sutton marks the first death of a wingsuit pilot at the Canton of Valais of the Swiss Alps.
While authorities are still investigating and learning what caused the accident that killed Mark Sutton, it is worth noting that Sutton veered off track and travelled 250 kmh, or 155 mph, before striking the mountain ridge. Sutton was dead at the scene and the parachute was never deployed.
It is unknown whether or not the wingsuit construction was defective or if human error caused the impact. However, it is high likely that the accident would not have occurred if Sutton did not veer from the intended route. In addition, Sutton never deployed his parachute which suggests that Sutton was unconscious or has lost stability and could not risk a violent parachute release.