Chamonix bans wingsuits after spate of deaths in Alps

The Local France
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Chamonix bans wingsuits after spate of deaths in Alps
Photo: AFP

The mayor of the French Alps town of Chamonix has banned the extreme sport of wingsuit flying for six months after a spate of deaths in recent months.


Eric Fournier, the mayor of Chamonix, a town which attracts lovers of extreme and outdoor sports, announced the provisional six month ban on Wednesday.
The mayor said he was particularly worried for the safety of people in the town after a Russian wingsuit flyer crashed into a recently built châlet this week.
"We can't consider that flying over inhabited zones is something that's normal, when they're putting residents at risk," he said.
Fournier suggested the sport was not regulated enough and many flyers were simply not experienced enough to fly safely.
Wingsuit flying, which became popular in the late 1990s involves base jumping from a high point in the mountains or from a helicopter, wearing a "wingsuit". The flyer will hurtle towards the ground at 200km/h before eventually opening a parachute.
Witnesses to this week's accident said the Russian man's parachute did not open, and that he crashed into the facade of the building. 
It's understood that he jumped from the Aiguille du Midi, a 3,842 metre peak near Mont Blanc.
The fact that five of the eight wing suit deaths in France this year have been in Chamonix had left local authorities concerned, before Wednesday's decision to put a halt to the extreme sport.
There have been 35 wingsuit-related deaths throughout the world since the start of the year.
Wingsuit flyers in Chamonix have to alert the special mountain police before each jump and are banned from jumping between 10am and 3pm from June to September to avoid accidents with paragliders.
"Wingsuiting is still a new sport that is growing in popularity, those who do it still haven't mastered it," said deputy mayor Jean-Louis Verdier. 
It is not the first time the mayor of Chamonix has decided that a ban is the only way to cut the number of deaths.
Eric Fournier introduced a similar provisional ban back in 2012 after another spate of deaths.
"For us, adventure doesn't mean extreme risk. We have to ask questions of responsibility and respect for other sports," he said at the time.
You only have to look at a selection of the incredible videos on YouTube to understand the risks involved in the sport.
But the clips also reveal why it continues to attract thrill seekers looking for the ultimate buzz.


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