Photo Credit: Graeme Murray/Red Bull Photofiles
According to ESPN.com, professional freeskier Shane McConkey died yesterday in a ski-B.A.S.E.-jumping stunt gone wrong. Here’s an excerpt from the article explaining what went wrong:
“[Shane] did a double backflip off the jump and he has these releasable bindings so [the skis] come off in the air and then he flies off in his wing suit. But one ski did not come off. And, when that happens the drag on the skis causes you to flip over, so the skis go over your head. So he was struggling with the one ski. Then he also got into a bad spin. So he may have never even pulled his pilot chute. And that’s coming from JT Holmes, who Shane was with in Italy and who reviewed the footage of the accident. So the combination of the ski, the spin and the pilot chute, apparently. Because you can’t throw the pilot chute like that; if you throw it while you’re upside down and it wraps around the ski, you’re done.”
McConkey was filming with Matchstick Productions and Red Bull at the time, according to Gaffney, who said McConkey apparently died on impact with snow on the ground below the cliff. Gaffney was not clear about the size of the cliff. “But it had to be a sizable cliff, at least 400 feet, for him to be planning on flying his wing suit away from it,” Gaffney said.
Shane McConkey was an amazing skier and one of the funniest, most-lovable characters in the sport. He was a freak of nature who conquered every aspect of the sport that he attempted. His early career was spent perfecting backflips in the backcountry, straight-lining impossible Alaskan lines and taking cliff-hucking to ridiculous heights. He then went on to conquer skiercross and even a few big air competitions, all while honing his BASE-jumping skills.
Never one to rest on his laurels or shy away from risk, Shane then decided to blend his two favorite sports into a new sport called ski-BASE-ing (if it were to have an official name, which it doesn’t). Unfortunately, it was this pioneering spirit that ultimately led to his demise. His longtime friend Rob Gaffney echoes this sentiment, saying, “With what Shane does, it’s a call you always picture getting at some point, but you realistically don’t ever expect it to happen.” Sadly, on March 26th, 2009, they finally received that call.
Shane new the risk that he was taking. In a satirical biopic, There’s Something About McConkey, Shane once admitted that he was still scared of heights, but it was the fear that “makes it fun”. And, while falling face first off of a cliff sounds like a horrendous way to go for most people, especially those afraid of heights, I have to think that it’s the way that Shane would have chosen.
Shane McConkey, 39, is survived by his wife and young daughter. My heart, and the collective hearts of the skiing community, go out to Shane’s family and friends.
Shane’s segment from Matchstick Productions’ film Push:
Shane’s profile from The Skier Channel with a very eery discussion of wingsuit flying and close calls: