Boyle And Coe Tributes To Stuntman

Danny Boyle and Lord Coe have led tributes to Olympics opening ceremony James Bond stuntman Mark Sutton after he died in a wingsuit crash in the Swiss Alps.

The 42-year-old former British Army officer, who parachuted out over the Olympic Stadium dressed as 007 during the showpiece spectacle, died after hitting a mountain ridge during the freefall from a helicopter near Mont Blanc.

Wingsuit experts said Mr Sutton, a Royal Bank of Scotland contractor from Shere in Surrey, is thought to have made a mistake which cost him his life as he fell at speeds of up to 125mph.

One experienced instructor, who did not wish to be named, said the "responsible and very calculated" jumper appeared to have miscalculated the gradient of the ground he was flying over, meaning he hit the ridge as the land flattened out.

Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting director Boyle, who directed the opening ceremony, said Mr Sutton's death was "a huge loss to his profession".

He said: "In a brilliant partnership with Gary Connery, they made the stadium gasp at the opening ceremony in London 2012 and left indelible memories for people from all walks of life all over the world.

"The show was built from so many contributions from so many people, none finer and braver than Mark Sutton."

Police in the Swiss Valais canton said Mr Sutton died after jumping from a helicopter with Tony Uragallo, who runs a company that makes wingsuits, from a height of 10,826ft (3,300m) above the Grandes Otanes area, close to the French border.

Footage from a camera Mr Uragallo was wearing is being analysed by police, according to Trey Cook, editor-in-chief of Epic TV, an "online extreme sports media service".

He said Sutton was part of a group of 20 of the world's top wingsuit pilots invited to the Alps to jump on film.

Speaking from Chamonix, the French resort where the group are staying, he said the moment of impact was not captured on film.

Describing Mr Sutton's death as "devastating", Mr Cook said all bar one of the group had decided to carry on with jumps in the area despite his death, in tribute to his memory.

"It was a really casual event," he added.

"They had gone up in helicopters and they were jumping. They were choosing their own courses. We were filming them as they were flying."

Mr Sutton is the first wingsuit pilot to die during a jump in the Valais region, mountain police said.

Wingsuits are special jumpsuits which increase the surface area of the body and act like a parachute wing, allowing users to glide through the air at high speeds before landing via parachute.

Jean-Marie Bornet, of the Valais police service, said the Briton's injuries were so severe that experts were forced to identify his body with a DNA test.

"We do not know what caused his death but we know it was immediate," he said.

"The weather was good but when a pilot takes part in this sport, the aim is to fly very close to the ground or mountainside.

"If you do this at speeds of 200 kph (125mph), the margin for error is very small."

Investigators will consider whether thermal winds may have had an impact on his trajectory, leading to the crash.

"One hypothesis is that he was too close to the mountain," Mr Bornet added.

One coach said Sutton "made a jump error and got too close to the terrain".

Asking to remain anonymous, he said the death had shocked the wingsuit community, in which Sutton was known for being safety-conscious

"There was no room for recovery," he said.

"A wingsuit flies three metres forward for every metre that you are going down. You are going down at an angle of 35 degrees or so. You always try to pick steeper terrain to fly relative to.

"In this case, at some point the terrain got so flat that he hit it."

Mr Sutton stood in for Hollywood star Daniel Craig during the celebrated opening ceremony segment for the games last year which featured the Queen.

Mr Sutton and fellow stuntman Gary Connery, who was dressed as the Queen, jumped out of a helicopter over the stadium in Stratford, east London, before the real Queen arrived in the Royal Box, alongside the Duke of Edinburgh.

Lord Coe, who chaired the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog), said Mr Sutton's death was "desperately sad news".

The peer, now chairman of the British Olympic Association, said: "I was shocked to hear the desperately sad news. The cast and volunteers in London became a very close-knit family.

"We are all thinking of Mark and his family at this incredibly difficult time.

"Mark was a consummate professional and team player. He will be widely missed."

The experienced stuntman acted as Mr Connery's cameraman when he made the first-ever wingsuit landing without a parachute in May last year.

Police said a "close" friend was with Mr Sutton, who reportedly travelled to Chamonix a few days ago with his partner Victoria Homewood, 39.

Repatriation of his body is expected to take a few days.