Skydiver killed in Alpine base jump

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The Independent Online

An experienced British skydiver has plummeted to his death while attempting a base jump in Switzerland.

The man - named by fellow enthusiasts as 28-year-old Gary Harbird from Dunkeswell, Devon - crashed into rocks after launching himself from cliffs in the Lauterbrunnen Valley yesterday, it is believed.

The Swiss resort is a favourite amongst adrenalin junkies, but is also one of the most dangerous. At least 21 base jumpers have died in recent years at the site.

His sister said today that the family were too upset to speak to the media.

But members of the UK skydiving and base jumping community paid tribute to Mr Harbird via online message boards.

A picture of a dedicated and experienced base jumper emerged.

One friend left the message: "My heart hurts and I cannot express the pain I feel with this loss.

"I learned so much from him, he opened my eyes to things I never would have seen without him."

Another recalled that Mr Harbird's love of the sport began at an early age, with him helping pack parachutes from the age of 10 and commencing skydiving training at the age of 16.

It is believed that he moved to the United States to pursue skydiving and became an accelerated freefall instructor.

Mr Harbird had logged over 6,000 jumps by the time of his death, fellow enthusiasts noted.

"Skydiving was in his blood and he will be sadly missed," read one online message.

Base jumping sees participants launch themselves from a surface and freefall from high altitudes before opening a parachute.

It takes its name from the four fixed objects from which divers take off - buildings, antennae, spans and earth.