Kiwi 'legend' in fatal base jump
Wind gust claims life of Te Awamutu manMATT BOWEN
Friends and family of Waikato man Alan McCandlish have paid tribute to a base jumper described as a legend of the sport.
Mr McCandlish, 31, was three weeks into a two-month trip through Europe with friends when he was caught by a wind shift while jumping from a cliff edge.
Onlookers said Mr McCandlish, who was wearing a wingsuit, hit a rock ledge before plummeting to the ground. Witnesses alerted rescue services, but he was dead when they found him, Swiss police say.
The fatal fall happened on the 2500m peak Unteren Tatelishorn, about 200km southwest of Zurich. Nearby is Lauterbrunnen, one of the deadliest peaks in the world for base jumpers with at least 28 recorded deaths.
Yesterday at their Te Awamutu home, Mr McCandlish's parents were watching DVDs of their son's aerial feats while coming to terms with his death.
"There's my boy," Sue McCandlish says.
Husband Richard is watching, too, as Alan is flying across their 48-inch flat screen TV, arms outstretched in a wingsuit, his fingertips seemingly touching a sheer rock face as he rockets passed it. They're watching a man described as a "legend and inspiration" in the world of base jumping.
In Switzerland, their boy's body is lying in a mortuary and his best base jumping mates Benjamin MacPherson and Teroy Attwood will bring his body home this week. It was "Benny", Alan's best mate, who called Mr and Mrs McCandlish with the news.
"We were like every other parent I suppose," Mr McCandlish says. "You're gutted aren't ya – your kids should never go before you."
Alan was "a straight up guy", he said.
"If you met him, he'd give you a firm handshake and look you in the eye – that's what a man does and that's what he did."
"He had a cool, wonderful sense of humour," Mrs McCandlish says. "He made us laugh heaps. He was a great family person. Absolutely loved his [two] brothers. And he loved us too, because he used to tell us all the time."
They are both "extremely" proud of their eldest son. Alan was born in Hamilton and lived in Te Awamutu until the 17-year-old signed up for a course at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre.
He graduated, then worked at the Taupo Bungy for a few years before he started skydiving. He become a tandem master and was employed at Taupo Tandem for three years before his death.
Chief executive Hamish Funnell said he was a "capable and experienced" skydiver.
Flowers, letters and friends have filled the McCandlish home over the past two days – something Mr McCandlish calls "magic". Emails have come too. Benjamin wrote: "He lived the most amazing life and achieved more in 30 years than most people do in 10 lifetimes ... I will miss him."
Mr and Mrs McCandlish don't know if Alan was an adrenalin junkie or not.
They had asked him: "Are you scared up there?" And he said, "Yeah, I'm scared". But he always said get out there and live life .
In 2008, Alan, Benjamin, and Jason Cyran pioneered the Kaipo Wall in Fiordland National Park – they were the first to base jump the biggest vertical cliff in New Zealand.
Benjamin wrote in his email to his parents that Alan wanted to be cremated and some of his ashes spread down the Kaipo Wall.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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