How a Mythic Base Jumper Met His Untimely End

Ed Caesar shares the story of Hervé le Gallou and his mysterious death

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 27, 2013 3:16 PM CDT

(Newser) – Thanks in part to the rise of wingsuits, base jumping has transformed into a popular and professionalized sport, and with that the hallmarks of veteran jumpers—"modesty, caution, patience"—are slowly being erased as a "generation of wingsuit pilots, stimulated by speed and YouTube hits," elbows its way in, writes Ed Caesar for the New York Times. Though that's Caesar's theme, his focus is on the "near-mythic" veteran jumper Hervé le Gallou, who died in a French Alps jump last year at the age of 51. Caesar met Le Gallou once, in 2009, after Le Gallou had sneaked into the world's tallest building, the under-construction Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, walked up 155 floors, and jumped at dawn.

He got past security with a delightfully forged badge that IDed him as Hervé Le Gallou: Technicien de Base—Spécialiste des Ascenseurs de Descente Rapide (that's Base Technician—Specialist Fast Downward Moving Elevators). Caesar shares the technical aspects of the jump La Gallou fatally made at Obiou on June 23, 2012, along with the recollections of the four people who jumped with him (none of them saw him crash onto a plateau). He also spoke with Le Gallou's former girlfriend; the accident doesn't sit well with her, and she's been investigating it on her own. (One of her contentions: That someone moved or replaced the ContourHD camera he wore on his helmet that day; it turned up weeks after the accident at the crash site, which she had previously combed over six times with a metal detector.) His death leaves its mark on the sport. Says a friend, "It looks like this year, many old-timers retired. They gave me different reasons, but the point is that they all told me Hervé’s death was the bell ringing the end of the game." Click for fascinating full Times feature.

A base jumper jumps off a skyscraper in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday May 25, 2013.
A base jumper jumps off a skyscraper in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday May 25, 2013.   (AP Photo/dpa,Nicolas Armer)
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