Hampshire Base-Jumper Died After Hitting Rock Ledge
15 January 2019, 14:50 | Updated: 15 January 2019, 15:14
A wingsuit base-jumper from Andover died from "unsurvivable injuries" after he failed to clear a cliff ledge on a 2,592m high Italian mountain, an inquest has heard.
Robert Haggarty died from multiple head and chest injuries following the accident.
It happened after he launched himself from the Castelleto Della Busazza in the Dolomites on June 24, which he and other base-jumpers had reached by helicopter.
The Winchester inquest was told that the 47-year-old, who had completed 500 jumps previously, had joined a group of 27 for a base-jumping holiday in the area.
Friend Dr Angelo Grubisic, a lecturer in astronautics and advanced propulsion at the University of Southampton, told the hearing that Mr Haggarty had sung Happy Birthday to him minutes before carrying out the jump.
Dr Grubisic said that the jump required clearing a sloping cliff 20 to 30 metres below the jump point which he said Mr Haggarty failed to do, which sent him spinning forward out of control and causing his parachute to deploy.
He said: "He was very calm, there was nothing to indicate he was in any worse shape than he was usually.
"It was my birthday, he had just sung Happy Birthday to me minutes prior to the jump, he was in good health and in a good state of mind."
Dr Grubisic said that he had completed the jump ahead of Mr Haggarty and only realised his friend had died after another jumper informed him.
He said: "I was pretty distraught at that point. I grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked back at the mountain and saw Rob's canopy was hung on the mountain."
He added: "Rob always jumped alone. Rob was always a very conservative jumper, always taking great care with his gear, always staying safe and doing the more conservative jump which makes it all the more surprising he made a mistake."
The inquest was shown drone video footage of Mr Haggarty, who had completed the same jump twice the previous year, launching himself off the mountain edge before his lower body caught the cliff edge below, with the canopy then opening a short while later.
Coroner Simon Burge said: "He didn't propel himself out far enough and fell and struck the rock-face a glancing blow within no more than two seconds of launching.
"That glancing blow caused him to adopt a forward rotation which in base-jumping circles is an extremely dangerous state to be in.
"It causes a complete loss of control and also causes the canopy to deploy."
He said that Mr Haggarty, who was born in Dumfries, Scotland, suffered fatal head and chest injuries in the initial collision and two further crashes after the canopy had deployed.
Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, Mr Burge added: "He died doing what he loved but far too soon, he had a full life ahead with his wife Joanna and his career."