Ace of base-jumping leaps into abyss

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The Independent Online

The Austrian base-jumper Felix Baumgartner yesterday completed his most death-defying stunt to date, with a pit jump in Croatia's rugged Velebit mountain range.

The Austrian base-jumper Felix Baumgartner yesterday completed his most death-defying stunt to date, with a pit jump in Croatia's rugged Velebit mountain range.

He parachuted into a 657ft (200m) chasm but caused long moments of panic because his landing was so tricky he forgot to tell his support team he was safe. Mr Baumgartner, 35, said later: "The pit is simply everything you don't want it to be. It is a deep, dark hole with an exceptionally sharp and uneven landing. It is all in concentration and timing."

The jumper, who has leapt from the Petronas Tower in Malaysia, the highest building in the world, and parachuted across the Channel, among other feats, had flares at the foot of the abyss and an MP3 music player counting the 7.3 seconds of his fall to aid his landing. The Austrian prepared for months, using laser-guided measurements and going on air-balloon expeditions.

Base jumping - an acronym for building, antenna, span and earth - is parachuting from a permanent surface rather than from an aircraft.

Mr Baumgartner has been arrested for illegal stunts, including a leap at the Panama Canal. Then he was detained for six days. After his 22-mile Channel flight, the former mechanic said: "You're totally alone; there's just you, your equipment, your wing, and your skills. I like it."

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