Watching this incredibly-intense POV cut from wingsuit pilot Eric Dossantos, an active-duty San Diego resident, I came away thinking two things: Chamonix is intensely beautiful, and Dossantos is insanely-lucky to be alive. Then I read his interview with another Navy wingsuit pilot and came away with this: Dossantos was extremely, extremely humbled by the incident—and despite what many might think about a high speed flight in the Alps that ended in disaster, he’s living life the right way.
A message to Dossantos wasn’t immediately returned but he was laid up in a French hospital for an extended time in early October with a list of injuries: a lacerated liver, broken bones including his clavicle, ribs and hemopneumothorax (a condition where air and blood get into the chest cavity), not to mention serious head trauma. Overall, Dossantos is so fortunate. But that’s obvious.
His crash occurred around the same time as a rash of wingsuit accidents in Chamonix including the death of Russian Ratmir Nigimyanov, an experienced pilot who was killed after he smashed into a tourist chalet. The series of deaths has since forced Chamonix mayor Eric Fournier to temporarily ban wingsuit flying in the area until the municipality can better examine the situation and if regulation is needed. The small mountain town at the foot of Mt. Blanc is arguably the finest, and most accessible thanks to the Aiguille du Midi cable car, free-flying venue in the world (which has proven to have dire consequences lately).
Dossantos in Idaho at the Perrin Bridge, one of the only legal places to jump in the U.S. Photo: Facebook.
Dossantos has a decent amount of wingsuit experience, as he laid out for Top Gun Base, a site for BASE athletes, with some 500 skydives (from planes) in his suit. But many in the sport recommend at least that much experience in BASE, skydiving and wingsuit skydiving before proximity flying merely hundreds of feet above the Earth, which is what Dossantos was doing when he crashed. But Dossantos was more than candid with his inexperience, laying out the fact that there were warning signs: he apparently wasn’t carrying enough speed in his wingsuit training jumps because of his weight and the fact he was using an older suit. “My skill level and knowledge pool was not high enough to keep me from stalling into the trees,” he said. “But I knew the best chance of surviving my impact was to keep a flying position at all costs.”
Striking in the interview, is how open Dossantos is to his mistakes and his self-examination. Maybe we’d all be that way if we were that close to death. Maybe, just maybe, nearly meeting our maker once in a lifetime is a good thing? Self examination heals a lot of wounds, both physical and mental. A simple look at Dossantos’ Facebook page and you can see he’s dedicated to the sport, and the BASE community (check out his trips to Idaho’s Perrin Bridge as a testament to his enjoying the camaraderie). He vowed to continue pursuing his passion despite the setback. I may be biased—I’ve turned reporting on passionate people into a career–but it’s hard to fault anyone for doing what they love. May we all be so lucky.