Wingsuit flier Victor Kovats dies after cliff crash horror

Story highlights

  • Victor Kovats found with a smashed skull at the foot of a 100-meter (328-foot) cliff in China
  • It's thought his parachute failed to deploy after a wingsuit flight, though an investigation is underway
  • Kovats was to compete in the second World Wingsuit Championships
  • Wingsuit flying sees participants glide through the air wearing a specially constructed suit

The body of a Hungarian daredevil "wingsuit flier" has been found a day after he plunged into a remote valley in northwestern China during a practice flight ahead of the World Championships.

Rescuers discovered Victor Kovats with a smashed skull at the foot of a 100-meter (328-foot) cliff in Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park in Zhangjiajie on Wednesday, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

An investigation is now underway, though rescuers believe Kovats crashed into the cliff when his parachute failed to deploy.

Wingsuit flying is an extremely hazardous sport where participants glide through the air wearing a specially constructed suit with fabric under the arms and legs to slow the rate of descent. Much like skydiving, the flight ends with the deployment of a parachute.

"We are deeply saddened by Victor Kovats's passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents and friends during these difficult times," read a statement on the website of the Red Bull World Wingsuit League (WWL), which organizes the competition.

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"He will be always be remembered for his deep passion for life and his spirit of adventure, and he will always be sadly missed in the wingsuit community."

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Difficult terrain

Kovats jumped at 2:51 p.m. local time, according to Xinhua. Witnesses then lost sight of Kovats after his parachute appeared to fail. Three other fliers successfully completed trial jumps at the time.

Nearly 200 firefighters and policemen were involved in the search operation, which was hampered by difficult terrain, according to Xinhua.

Kovats, a three-time Hungarian national champion, had completed 700 jumps. He was also an experienced skydiver and base jumper.

The organizers have not yet said if the event -- in its second year and scheduled to begin on October 11 -- will go ahead. The inaugural World Wingsuit Championships were held at Tianmen Mountain's 700-meter (2,300-foot) cliffs last year with 15 fliers from nine countries.

Kovats is the latest in a line of wingsuit fatalities. In August, a British stuntman, who parachuted in dressed as James Bond during the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, died after hitting a cliff while jumping in a wingsuit from a helicopter in Switzerland.

Mark Sutton, 42, and another man jumped from a height of about 3,300 meters (10,826 feet) in the Grandes-Otannes area in the Alps, near the border with France, a police statement said.

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