JEDDAH: A British wingsuit scientist and champion was killed during a jump in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Dr. Angelo Grubisic crashed on a mountainside during an event in the Asir region that was part of Al-Soudah Season.
The 38-year-old extreme sports expert was an astronautical engineer who had worked for NASA and the European Space Agency before becoming a lecturer of astronautics at the University of Southampton, where he was involved in work to develop safer and better-performing wingsuits.
Saudi Civil Defense rescue teams in the province of Rijal Almaa raised the alarm at 11:47 a.m. on Wednesday, alerting authorities that a wingsuit BASE jumper had crashed in a mountainous area. Rescue teams located Grubisic’s body and carried him about 100 meters across rocky slopes to a helicopter that transported him to Asir Hospital.
Event organizer the Extreme Sports Company said that wingsuit BASE jumping is an approved part of Al-Soudah Season. It added that a technical team had supervised the preparations and procedures for the event to ensure proper safety standards were met, and to determine whether the weather conditions were suitable for the jumps to go ahead.
The company said that a helicopter flew Grubisic and four other wingsuit base jumpers — from Norway, France, Italy and Australia — to the jump point. Initial reports suggested Grubisic experienced difficulties as soon as he jumped and began his flight to the landing site at the cable car station in Rijal Alma. As he reached speeds of about 100 miles per hour he appeared to misjudge his height. His body was found about 25 kilometers from the take-off position.
The British Embassy in Riyadh thanked the authorities in the region for their efforts during the rescue operation and for helping Grubisic’s family travel to the Kingdom and make arrangements to take his body home.
Grubisic led a wingsuit-design team at the University of Southampton and was crowned a British wingsuit champion during a competition at Dunkeswell Airfield in Devon in July.
His family described him as “phenomenally talented.” They added: “Angelo lost his life doing what he loved the most, wingsuit BASE jumping, and we want to ensure his achievements and ambitions are known to the world, and to celebrate the mark he made on all of our lives.
“Angelo captivated the hearts and minds of every single person who was privileged to meet and work with him. ‘The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long’ has never rung more true to the family and friends Angelo had across the world.”
The University of Southampton said: “We are extremely saddened and shocked by the death of Angelo and our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.
“Angelo made many pioneering contributions to the University’s research into astronautics and was incredibly popular with his students and colleagues.”
Wingsuit jumpers wear a suit that has extra fabric between the legs and under the arms. This allows them to glide great distances after jumping from an aircraft or from a jump point, increasing their time in the air before deploying a parachute. BASE jumping involved parachuting or wingsuit flying from from fixed points or objects. BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span (such as a bridge) and earth (such as a cliff or mountainside).