CANMORE, Alta. - RCMP say the area of the Rockies where a man died on the weekend is popular with thrill-seeking wingsuit jumpers, but fortunately accidents are rare.
Police say the Edmonton-area man, 40, and two companions jumped off Ha Ling Peak near the town of Canmore on Sunday wearing wingsuits. The specialized outfits have fabric stitched between the arms and body that increases a jump's surface area and allows a user to fly impressive horizontal distances at a slower descent rate.
While the two companions landed safely, the man who died hit the trees without his parachute opening.
"The only thing we have an understanding of is that his parachute did not deploy," RCMP Sgt. Ryan Currie said Monday. "I cannot say for certain if it was human error or an equipment malfunction."
Currie said the practice is not illegal and is quite common in the area.
"Ha Ling Peak is actually a fairly accessible mountain. A lot of people do hike the trail up the backside to reach the peak.
"A lot of people do use that area for BASE jumping with wingsuits and parachutes," said Currie. "It's common for people to use it, but not common for us to have accidents of this sort."
The dead man's two companions called for help. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not been released.
The Calgary chief medical examiner’s office is investigating.
While parachutists experimented with wings as early as the 1930s and there was another wave in the 1960s, commercial wingsuits weren't developed until the late 1990s in Europe.
Sometimes referred to as flying squirrel suits or birdman suits, several companies now sell them for between US$700 and US$1,800.
Speeds can exceed 160 km/h.
Last month, two jumpers in Yosemite National Park were killed instantly when they attempted to zoom through a notch in a ridgeline and slammed into a rocky outcropping.
Dean Potter, 43, and Graham Hunt, 29, were experienced at flying in wingsuits. Potter, who had been featured in a National Geographic documentary on wingsuits called "Fly or Die," was considered one of the biggest inspirations of his generation in the climbing community. Hunt was one of the most prolific BASE jumpers in that part of California.
In 2009, Potter set a record for completing the longest BASE jump from the Eiger North Face in Switzerland by staying in flight in a wingsuit for two minutes and 50 seconds. The feat earned him the Adventurer of the Year title by National Geographic magazine.
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary with files from the Associated Press.
Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
Switzerland's Geraldine Fasnacht jumps from the top of the Brevent mountain to fly in a wingsuit over the French ski resort of Chamonix in 2014. (Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)
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