Kiwi 'birdman' lived for adventure
He "lived every day like someone left the gate open."
And he died doing what he loved.
These heartfelt words are from Lisa Hutchins, wife of former Invercargill man Dan Vicary who died in a wingsuit accident in Switzerland.
The pair had recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary.
Vicary and two other men had jumped from a helicopter over the Lutschental Valley and smashed into an alpine pasture.
Vicary, 33, and Frenchman Ludo Woerth were dead when rescuers arrived. The third jumper, whose nationality was unknown, was seriously injured.
Vicary represented New Zealand at the world wingsuit race in Brazil last year and was ranked No 2 in the world for the sport.
Wingsuit flying is a sport where participants dress in "birdman" suits and jump from cliffs as high as 2000 metres, or from aircraft, gliding as fast as they can before parachuting to the ground.
They cover a kilometre in about 30 seconds.
Base-jumping was an inherently risky sport but Vicary was a professional who did all the training he could do, Hutchins said.
Vicary was "an amazing human being" and she felt humbled to have known him and shared his adventures, she said.
"Adventure - that is what life was with him."
He died doing what he loved, she said.
Vicary did everything he could to push the boundaries of his pioneering sport of human flight, she said. He was passionate about his sport and wanted to get across that he was not doing a "stunt" or a "crazy" thing.
While at home in November, he set a new wingsuit-flying record and set out to reinforce the positive aspects about his sport, which he said scared many people because of the dangers and deaths associated with it.
He told children at Sacred Heart School in Invercargill the sport encouraged pioneering personalities and explained barriers could be pushed if done safely.
The wingsuit pioneer was such a skilled flier he was chosen to test different brands for the market and was always looking to see how he could improve the gear, Hutchins said.
He inspired a lot of people and passed his passion on to his skydiving students, she said.
Vicary saved many lives in Sri Lanka after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
"He saw people suffering and stayed and helped, pulling people out of the water and putting them back together."
His actions and humility afterwards were a testimony to the man Vicary was, she said.
Vicary was home again for one week at the start of March to film "a few cool stunts" in the Southern Alps.
His friend Lisa Chambers, who works at Skydive Wanaka, said Vicary was making a film to show jumping was not reckless, that it was meticulously planned and assessed, she said.
Global and Kiwi wingsuit and base-jumping pioneer Chuck Berry, of Queenstown, said Vicary was well-respected as someone leading the pack in a whole "new breed" of base-jumpers and wingsuit fliers.
The World Wingsuit League posted a tribute naming the pair on their Facebook page, saying it was shocked and saddened.
On Vicary's Facebook profile, he was described as a dedicated professional base-jumper and sky-diver.
"Base-jumping is a beautiful sport," he wrote. "It's a respectful sport - we are considerate of fellow jumpers and pilots and also the environment in which we fly.
"It's technical and, often, downright geeky. And it's taken me all around the world, meeting some of the most inspirational, motivated, brilliant and humble people on the planet."
Vicary was a former New Zealand motocross champion and whitewater kayaker, was the co-owner of ValleyBase Gear, a speciality base equipment supplier, in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
MOTHER'S WORST NIGHTMARE COMES TRUE
Dan Vicary's mum dreaded the day she would get a phone call to say the worst had happened.
On Sunday the call came to say her son had been killed in a jumping accident.
Diane Peterson said her son was excited about his future and he had believed man's ability to fly safely was achievable for everyone.
After the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami he told her life was for living and people did not do enough with their lives. It was then he decided to follow his dream of skydiving.
"I thought ‘Oh my god'."
As a mother, it was one of the worst things to hear her son would be jumping from a plane and she feared a call in the middle of the night to say he had not made it, she said. He later took up base jumping and wingsuit flying.
Throughout the years she tried to talk him out of his career and always questioned him about safety, but he always managed to talk her around by explaining the measures he took.
She even shared his passion - tandem skydiving with him after his 3000th jump.
"I know he did not make it this time but I know he was careful."
Passionate was the one word she would use to describe her son. His love for adventure started with his motorbike and white-water rafting.
He was dedicated and knew what he wanted from a young age and worked for it.
When he was 13 he wanted a motorbike and worked cleaning bricks and in a garage until he saved enough money to buy one.
Vicary's dad, Grant, said his son was determined, and like his idol Burt Munro, he was able to fix anything. He was proud of his son's work ethic and everything he had achieved.
He recalls how his son always said, "the sky was not the limit, the ground was". And in his death that would also be the case.
Vicary's ashes would be spread between the sea and the mountains in Switzerland and New Zealand.
"He never wanted to be grounded, he wanted to be everywhere."
- The Southland Times
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