Stuntman skydiver who parachuted into 2012 Olympics dressed as James Bond dies as he 'hits mountain ridge at 124mph'
Thursday, August 15, 2013
A daredevil who parachuted into 2012 London Olympics dressed as James Bond died as he hit a mountain ridge at 124mph as he skydived in a wingsuit.
Mark Sutton, 42, was killed after the crash in the Swiss Alps follow his jump from a helicopter in the suit, which allows skydivers to glide through the air as they fall.
The former army officer is thought to have died instantly in the accident near Martigny, close to the Switzerland-France border.
Police investigating the death of the British stuntman are studying video footage of the fatal jump, the event organiser has said.
Mark Sutton parachuted into the Olympic Stadium dressed as James Bond during the opening ceremony of London 2012 during the dramatic showcase for the sporting event – beamed around the world to millions of people.
Trey Cook, editor-in-chief of Epic TV, an “online extreme sports media service”, said Sutton was part of a group of 20 of the world’s top wingsuit pilots he had invited to the Alps to jump on film.
Speaking from Chamonix, the French resort where the group are staying, he said: “There were two pilots that jumped at the same time.
“The pilot who was with him (Sutton) had a camera on.”
He added that the moment of impact was not captured on film.
Wingsuits are special jumpsuits which increase the surface area of the body and act like a parachute wing, allowing users to glide through the air at high speeds before landing via parachute.
Describing Mr Sutton’s death as “devastating”, Mr Cook said all bar one of the group had decided to carry on with jumps in the area despite his death, in tribute to his memory.
“We had organised a group of 20 of the world’s top wingsuit pilots to come and do some jumping,” Mr Cook said.
“It was a really casual event. They had gone up in helicopters and they were jumping. They were choosing their own courses. We were filming them as they were flying.”
Sutton doubled for actor Daniel Craig for a section of the London Games curtain-raiser which saw the spy pretend to jump alongside the Queen with Union flag-emblazoned parachutes after flying to Stratford, east London, by helicopter from Buckingham Palace.
Police in the Swiss Valais canton confirmed that a 42-year-old British man had died after jumping with a friend from a helicopter while wearing a wingsuit above the Grandes Otanes area, close to the French border.
In a statement they said the pair jumped from a height of 10,826ft (3,300m) at about 11am.
“They then flew, sticking close to the mountain side, with the intention of landing near the hamlet of Le Peuty, near Trient,” it said.
“During this flight, one of the men had a fatal fall. According to preliminary investigations, it appears that he fell after hitting a ridge.
“The victim, a Briton, was 42 years old. He was in Chamonix with around 20 other wingsuit pilots, considered among the best in the world in this sport.
“The group had been invited by an extreme sports company which makes films that are broadcast on the internet.”
The police said formal identification was under way and an investigation has been opened.
On August 10, Mr Sutton posted a message and pictures on his Facebook pages, saying: “The sun comes out for a beautiful day in Chamonix, two base wingsuit flights from Brevent then a spectacular paraglide with Mont Blanc and the glaciers glistening in the background.”
A video in tribute to Mr Sutton was posted on YouTube today, showing footage from some jumps he has made in the wingsuit previously in Norway, Italy and Switzerland.
Mr Sutton stood in for Hollywood star Daniel Craig during Danny Boyle’s celebrated opening ceremony for the 2012 games.
The tuxedo-clad actor reprised his 007 role, shown on the big screens and television, meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and escorting her to a helicopter which takes off from the lawn outside.
They were seen flying to east London before the helicopter hovered over the packed stadium to allow them to jump out.
Mr Sutton and fellow stuntman Gary Connery, dressed as the pair, then jumped out of the helicopter before landing outside.
The Queen then entered the royal box accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.
Gary Connery, who played the Queen, told The Sun he had lost a close friend who was “smart, articulate and funny”.
“In any sport where you share a common bond you can make friends in a heartbeat that last a lifetime,” he said.
“My relationship with Mark was like that.”
Yesterday he tweeted: “All you jumpers/flyers out there, stay safe, make wise choices and know your limits and your locations, live to tell your stories, one love.”
Danny Boyle paid tribute to Mr Sutton, saying the sad news of his death marked
``a huge loss to his profession''.
He told how the two stuntmen would smuggle wine into the secure Olympic site from the helicopter launch site in Essex every evening during rehearsals for crew in need of “occasional fortification” – but were too professional to touch a drop.
“In a brilliant partnership with Gary Connery they made the stadium gasp at the Opening Ceremony in London 2012 and left indelible memories for people from all walks of life all over the world,” he told the Evening Standard.
He added: “The show was built from so many contributions from so many people, none finer and braver than Mark Sutton.
“On behalf of everyone in the show we were all honoured to have worked with him and to have known him as a friend and a professional.
“All our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues. Thank you Mark.”
Wingsuit experts said Mr Sutton, from Shere in Surrey, was thought to have made a mistake which cost him his life.
One experienced instructor, who did not wish to be named, said the “responsible and very calculated” jumper appeared to have miscalculated the gradient of the ground he was flying over, meaning he hit the ridge as the land flattened out.
“He made a jump error and got too close to the terrain.” the coach said.
“There was no room for recovery. A wingsuit flies three metres forward for every metre that you are going down. You are going down at an angle of 35 degrees or so. You always try to pick steeper terrain to fly relative to.
“In this case, at some point the terrain got so flat that he hit it.”
The instructor said Mr Sutton’s death shocked the small wingsuit jumping community.
“You get people who do really stupid stuff but guys like Mark Sutton are known for being very safe, responsible and very calculated jumpers,” he added.
“There is always a risk associated with the sport but you do try and keep that risk minimised. Mark Sutton wasn’t a person known for making stupid decisions or doing things out of his skill set. His death is a shock to a lot of people.”
Epic TV said Mr Sutton’s death was a “tragic loss for the global wingsuit community”.
The crash happened on the first day of a three-day filming event, following several successful jumps.
“Rescue services arrived quickly and determined that Mr Sutton had immediately died upon impact,” the statement said.
“Mr Sutton was a highly accomplished wingsuit pilot and served as Gary Connery’s cameraman when Connery made the first-ever wingsuit landing without a parachute in May 2012.
“Mr Sutton also performed as a skydiver in the opening ceremonies of the 2012 summer Olympics in London.
“Mark Sutton’s death is a tragic loss for the global wingsuit community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends at this time.”