Don't miss a story sign up to Midweek Herald's FREE daily newsletter CLICK HERE

Skydiver death ‘accidental’

13:29 05 February 2013

Archant

Record breaking parachutist went into uncontrolled spin after diving from a cliff in Switzerland.

A record breaking skydiver died when he went into an uncontrolled spin during a 5,000 foot BASE jump from a notorious cliff face in Switzerland, an inquest has heard.

Gary Harbird, 28, died on the High Ultimate jump in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, as he undertook a daredevil dive from a platform at the top of a near vertical cliff.

A coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death after hearing how the experienced parachute instructor crashed into the cliff face then fell into trees on the steep wooded slope beneath.

His helmet was torn off by the impact and he died of massive head injuries in the accident in January 2011, the inquest at Exeter was told.

Gary held records as the youngest skydiver and youngest instructor and had devoted his life to the sport from the age of 16, making 8,000 parachute jumps and more than 400 BASE jumps.

He became Britain’s youngest parachutist when he jumped at Dunkeswell less than a week after his 16th birthday and still holds the world record as the youngest qualified instructor.

He grew up in Honiton, Devon, but moved to America while just 16 and lived near the DropZone centre at Orange County, Boston, Massachusetts, where he was an instructor.

He was on a BASE jumping trip to the Alps after spending Christmas with his family in St Leonards Road, Honiton, when he died.

Greater Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death after receiving documents from police in the Bernese Oberland detailing their investigation.

She said: “It appears he went into a spin and opened his parachute. The helmet which may have protected him was knocked off in the fall. I am satisfied he went into an accelerated spin and collided with a cliff.

“He fell and became entangled in a tree and suffered fatal head injuries. I am satisfied he died instantaneously during this activity, which he was doing by his own volition. The proper verdict is accidental death.”

The inquest at County Hall in Exeter was told he suffered massive head injuries in the fall on the morning of January 24, 2011 from the High Ultimate platform at Lauterbrunnen Valley.

He was jumping with friend and fellow skydiver Christopher Peterson and was the first to go off the platform.

In a statement to Swiss police Mr Peterson said: “Gary was the first to jump and took his position on the platform. He walked forwards and took off strongly.

“I tracked his jump and noticed he found himself in a dangerous situation and went into a spin. I took off and could see his parachute was already open, which was a bad sign.

“His parachute disappeared from view and did not appear again. I dropped into the Schilform Valley and saw his parachute hanging off the Murrenfleu.

“I tried calling to him but realised he was probably unconscious. I contacted the emergency services with the help of a passer-by.”

The police report concluded: “After jumping he went into an accelerated spin and in this dangerous position he activated and opened his parachute but collided with the cliffs.

“He suffered fatal head injuries and the helmet he was wearing was ripped off and never recovered. He opened the parachute but dropped out of control and came to rest 200 metres from the Murrenfleu.

“The circumstances indicate an accident in which there was no third party or criminal proceedings.”

After the case Gary’s mother Alison said: “He devoted his life to sky diving and parachuting and was a very experienced instructor who knew what he was doing.

0 comments

Other News Stories

12:07
Cosmic Cafe Lite

Town Mill to celebrate Shakespere’s magical play

Read more
09:40
Seaton's new waves sculpture

Seafront Waves sculpture helps people to ‘connect with nature’ say officials

Read more
Mark Wakely is hoping to reach the final five of the Plumber of the Year competition.

A Fords tradesman is in contention to be named the country’s Plumber of the Year - but he needs the public’s support.

Read more
12:53
EDDC logo

‘We are not immune to this sort of issue in our community’

Read more
Gary Holcombe took this shots of Exmouth beach last night which was cordoned off while officials checked out reports of an exploding bomb. Credit: Gary Holcombe

The bomb squad was called to Exmouth after reports of an unexploded device on the beach.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:45
Ian Rangeley, chairman of Seaton and Beer RNLI, with volunteers at the Beer lifeboat week. Ref shb 27-16TI 3453. Picture: Terry Ife

An original painting by an artist from Beer, worth up to £1,400, is up for grabs in a sealed bid charity auction.

Read more
Yesterday, 11:00
Cllr Ian Thomas

East Devon District Council has given away £16,500 to projects applying to its Community Buildings Fund during the 2015/16 year.

Read more
Yesterday, 09:04
The new Seaton fitness centre. Picture CHRIS CARSON

It’s ‘An exciting time to be involved in Seaton’, says LED area manager Marcus Allen

Read more
Wed, 17:00
Pupils got to see a police dog in action.

The year six youngsters learned about what the dogs do on a day-to-day basis and, at the end of the presentation, were treated to a display in the playground.

Read more
Wed, 12:08
NATIONAL EXPRESS - 45 YEARS OLD
Pictured the August 7th 1965 Wedding Photo Album of Brian Lewis & Patricia Cavanagh at St Clements Church. The Photographic album was handed in after being found at Birmingham Coach Station and National Express would like to reunite the album with the family
FOR FURTHER DETAILS CONTACT: Ros Golds on  0121 460 8419 / 07825 976 593 or rosalyn.golds@nationalexpress.com
Picture by Adam Fradgley

A coach company is appealing to reunite a wedding album with its rightful owner – ahead of what would be the couple’s 51st anniversary.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 19°C

min temp: 14°C

Most Read News

Great British Life

Great British Life

Useful Links

Family notices
Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Submit a Story
Buy Photos
Competitions
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus Page
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Read Online

Image
Read the Midweek Herald e-edition E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Local business directory

Honiton's trusted business finder

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists


Find planning applications