Hang-gliding instructor falls to death as student watches

Five people have died in extreme sports accidents in the French Alps.
Five people have died in extreme sports accidents in the French Alps.

A hang-gliding instructor mysteriously fell out of his two-seater aircraft and plunged to his death, leaving his shocked student to land alone, in one of five deaths of extreme sports enthusiasts this weekend in the French Alps.

A wingsuit jumper, two rock climbers, and a paraglider were the other victims in the grim series of deaths that came as holidaymakers flocked to the mountain range to enjoy a sunny holiday weekend at the height of the tourist season.

The fatal accidents began on Sunday, when the hang-gliding instructor became the first of the five French nationals to lose his life in a sudden and dramatic plunge to the ground.

The 49-year-old veteran of the sport was giving a lesson to a student in a two-seater hang-glider near Lake Annecy, a popular haunt for lovers of the high-adrenaline activity.

The pair were approaching a landing strip at a locality called Doussard when the instructor, for reasons that have not yet been established, fell out of the aircraft and plunged 45m to the ground.

The student, who emerged unscathed from the incident, managed to land the hang-glider alone and called emergency services. But medics were unable to help the instructor, who had died from injuries sustained in the fall.

Police have begun an investigation into the incident, but there has been no suggestion of foul play.

Later on Sunday, a 32-year-old man died on the Dent d'Arclusaz mountain after attempting a wingsuit jump, one of the most dangerous extreme sports.

Wingsuits are special jumpsuits which increase the human body's surface area, allowing users to glide through the air at high speeds after jumping from a cliff, mountain peak or plane, before landing via parachute.

But the sport regularly claims the lives of its practitioners. The latest victim, on the 2040m-high Dent d'Arclusaz mountain, died after a jump.

He and five other wingsuiters had leapt from different parts of the mountain. But when the other five landed they could see no sign of their colleague and raised the alarm.

Mountain rescue services eventually found his dead body after a search on the mountain where another wingsuiter had died three years previously.

His death came just two days after a 35-year-old American woman died in the Alps in an accident in a base-jumping event. Base-jumping involves leaping off a cliff or fixed structure and using a parachute to land.

The grim toll in the Alps continued to rise later on Sunday, when two highly experienced French climbers - a 34-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman - died after tumbling 50m down La Meije mountain.

The pair, who were roped together, fell as they prepared to tackle the southern face of the mountain when something went wrong.

"One pulled the other one down," a mountain rescue official said. He said rescuers were alerted by other climbers who had witnessed the accident from a mountain refuge nearby.

Rescuers flew in by helicopter but found the pair dead.

Later on the same day, rescuers found the dead body of a paraglider body on rocks in the Haute-Savoie region on the Swiss border.

The man had plunged to his death from the Buclon mountain, which is 2072m-high. Police have launched an investigation into the death.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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