The Kiwi base jumper who died in Italy "lived on the edge his whole life", his step-brother says.
Former Nelson man George Allan Staite, 28, lost his life yesterday when he and a group were base jumping off Eagle's Beak, in the Italian region of Trentino Alto Adige.
On his fatal fall, he had tried to launch his parachute about three quarters into the 1100 metre fall, but it failed to open, English news site La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno reported.
His step-brother, Motueka real estate agent Paul Davis, said Staite was a free spirit who ‘‘just loved’’ skydiving and base jumping, which he had taken up several years ago.
Davis said news of Staite’s death had come as ‘‘a massive shock’’ to the family, ‘‘but George knew the risks of what he was doing’’.
‘‘He’s just lived on the edge his whole life.’’
Staite grew up in Nelson. He went to Tahunanui School and Nelson College before finishing his secondary school years at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, and then completing a BSc at Canterbury University.
His mother, Nancy Davis, of Nelson, and 20-year-old brother Julian were flying to Italy tomorrow, where they would be joined by his sister, 24-year-old Catherine, who was already in the Mediterranean area.
A geologist, he had gone to Europe in February after a stint working for a mining company in Western Australia.
Friend Marco Regina said Staite had been in the area since February or March, living in his van and jumping every day.
Regina described his friend as his "kiwi brother" who "left this world doing what he loved most".
He was "an amazing person, always smiling, super relaxed and super slow while talking... just one of the coolest friend I met," Regina said.
"I already miss you so much buddy... but I'm sure that we'll meet again one day... and thanks for waiting for me between the trees after my first WS BASE," he wrote on Facebook as a tribute to his mate.
"GOOD BYE my kiwi brother, I love you, fly free."
Regina, also a base jumper, wasn't with Staite at the time of his death, but it is understood that he was part of a group base jumping from the same area.
Media reports suggest his parachute failed to open and he would have been travelling at about 200 kilometres an hour when he hit the rock face.
Witnesses to the accident alerted local authorities and his body has since been removed from the area by helicopter.
Base jumpers launch themselves off a platform, usually a mountain's ridge, and use a parachute to slow them down before landing.
They typically wear a wing suit to help them travel horizontally.
This latest death follows that of New Zealander Alan Malcolm McCandlish, 31, who was killed in July while base jumping in Switzerland and Ted Rudd, 35, who died last year after a failed jump in Norway.
There have been 193 fatalities in the sport, according to base jumping website Blinc magazine.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) spokesman said they were aware of the death and were liaising with Italian authorities. Assistance would be provided to the deceased's family.
Video: Base jumping from the same area in Trentino Alto Adige.
WHAT IS BASE-JUMPING?
It progressed from skydiving but instead of jumping out of an aeroplane, jumpers leap from fixed objects. Base is an acronym that stands for the four types of objects they jump from: buildings, antennae, spans (bridges), and earth (mountains).
Base jumpers carry pre-packed parachutes to land safely and can wear special suits that let them travel horizontally as they fall. A 2008 study found the annual fatality rate in 2002 was one in 60 participants worldwide.
- © Fairfax NZ News