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FRENCH ALPS

Chamonix bans wingsuits after spate of deaths in Alps

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.

Chamonix bans wingsuits after spate of deaths in Alps
Photo: AFP
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.
 
(AFP)
 
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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FRENCH ALPS

‘It’s a miracle’: Boy survives 40-minute burial after avalanche in French Alps

A 12-year-old boy was found alive Wednesday 40 minutes after being swept away and buried by an avalanche while skiing with his parents in the French Alps, rescuers said.

'It's a miracle': Boy survives 40-minute burial after avalanche in French Alps
Illustration photo: AFP
The family had just left a groomed run for an off-piste sector at the La Plagne ski area in southeast France when the boy was caught by the cascading mass of snow at around 2:00 pm (1300 GMT).
   
He was not carrying a transmitting beacon that could alert rescuers to his position quickly.
   
But a sniffer dog brought in by the French mountain police squad from nearby Courchevel found him around 40 minutes later.
   
“It's a miracle because he had no victim detection device. The chances of survival are minuscule after 15 minutes under the snow,” one of the rescuers told AFP.
   
The child, who suffered only a broken leg, was taken to the hospital at Grenoble.
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