Daredevil wing-suiters launch themselves off cliffs youtube

Two extreme sports enthusiasts have died in Switzerland after smashing into an Alpine pasture while "wing-suiting". They were a 34-year-old Frenchman and a 33-year-old from New Zealand. A third person, nationality unknown, was seriously injured.

It is unclear exactly what happened, but it is known that all three had just jumped from a helicopter over the Lutschental valley in the Bern canton, intending to land in the valley. For some reason they smashed into a pasture near Sengg, two of the men dying before rescuers arrived.

Around 20 people die every year while attempting to take part in "wing-diving", whose participants don a lightweight "birdman" suit which allows them to glide in the same way as a flying squirrel.

The first person to wing-suit was 19-year-old Californian Rex G. Finney in 1930. Early suits were made of canvas, silk and other unreliable materials. Now suits are made of lightweight materials. The longest recorded flight was 4.7 miles by American Dean Potter when he jumped off the Eiger. The fastest speed recorded was 226mph by Japanese wingsuit pilot Shin Ito.

Some wing-suiters combine the dangerous sport with base-jumping, leaping off high cliffs and gliding down in the hope of attaining the ultimate buzz – and competing to produce the most terrifying videos. Sean "Stanley" Leary, one of the most well-known exponents, described the feeling of freedom it gave him in a video he published on Vimeo. He died during a jump soon afterwards. Last year Mark Sutton, 42, who parachuted into the stadium at London 2012 dressed as James Bond, died when he smashed into an Alpine ridge at 155mph while wing-suiting.

Despite – or perhaps because of – the risks, wing-suiting is becoming increasingly popular among people hoping to experience the closest thing most of us will ever get to unassisted flight.