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Angus Hutchison-Brown

Extreme sportsman who leaped from Old Man of Hoy

Born: 1979, in Norwich.

Died: 25 May, 2008, in Meiringen, Switzerland, aged 29.

ANGUS Hutchison-Brown was one of those young men and women who like to live life on the edge – and then jump off. He was one of Britain's best-known, and best-liked Base jumpers, who leap from mountain cliffs, bridges, buildings or high antennae and freefall as far as possible before opening their parachutes.

Gus, as he was widely known within his close-knit fraternity, was a computer consultant in his normal life but he was not one to spend his spare time at home on a PlayStation. In little over a decade, he made more than 1,000 skydives from aircraft and more than 500 jumps from non-moving objects. He died at the age of 29 doing what he loved most, plunging off a 7,000ft cliff in Switzerland's Bernese Oberland.

His friends said he apparently delayed opening his parachute to avoid being caught up in power lines and by the time his canopy opened, it was too late to break his fall sufficiently. He died of multiple injuries despite the swift attention of his friends and the Swiss emergency services.

Only 11 days earlier, Hutchison-Brown, with two "compadres", had made the first-ever Base jump from the Old Man of Hoy, the 450ft red sandstone stack in the Orkney Islands which was first climbed only in the 1960s by a team led by Chris Bonington over a three-day period. A dramatic video of last month's jump (www.yamgo.tv) shows Hutchison-Brown, Roger Holmes and extreme sportsman and TV presenter Tim Emmett tramping past Radwick Bay before starting the painstaking ascent of the Old Man. Despite being loaded with their jumping gear, they made it up in seven hours.

Once on top, already 9pm on Wednesday, 14 May, they had a three-way embrace, said "see you at the bottom" and made the leap one after the other, whooping irresistibly. They had to pull their ripcords almost immediately and for most of the ten-second fall they were concerned with making a reasonably soft landing on the inhospitable basalt base of the vertical rock stack without crashing into the Pentland Firth. On the ground, another three-way embrace.

Soon after getting back to the mainland, then on to England, the three friends set off for what would be the fateful trip to Meiringen, Switzerland, a mecca for Base jumpers from around the world since it is legal under certain conditions. (The sport is not illegal in the UK, but jumpers can be prosecuted over related offences, such as endangering the lives of others.)

A Base jumpers' website run by jumper Nick Rugai (known by his official number Base 903) listed Hutchison-Brown as the 121st worldwide fatality since 1981 in a sport which has soared in popularity in recent years after stuntmen started doing it in James Bond and other films. At least 16 of those deaths were in the Lauterbrunnen area of Switzerland, near Meiringen.

The word Base is an acronym for building, antenna, span, earth – the four "objects" that must be leaped from to qualify as a bona fide jumper with an official Base number.

"Wherever he was in the world he delighted in telephoning us to let us know about his latest jump success," said Hutchison-Brown's mother, Kate Gosden, in Bodham, Norfolk. "He loved living life to the full, on the edge, but not being fazed by anything. He mentored so many people in Base jumping and skydiving. He was always willing to give others the benefit of his wisdom and experience in preparing properly, making sure they were fully aware of the dangers." His mother said he was also 100 per cent careful in his preparations, often phoning her from a mountain top to say he had called off a jump due to adverse conditions.

Angus Patrick Hutchison-Brown was born in Norwich in 1979, went to school there and graduated in computer science at the University of Nottingham in 2001. As a young chorister, he was once seen on the BBC's Songs of Praise, but an 18th-birthday gift from his parents changed his life forever. They gave him the present of a tandem ride, strapped to an instructor, on a skydive above the historic Old Buckenham airfield, Norfolk. He was hooked, and his new love of freefall would take him around the world.

A service of celebration was held in Holt, Norfolk, with many members of the Base and skydiving communities present. He is survived by his parents, a brother and two sisters.

PHIL DAVISON

 
 
 

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