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Man in wingsuit jumps to his death in Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton-area man, with a passion for BASE jumping, plunged to his death at Ha Ling Peak near Canmore on Sunday morning. Jill Croteau reports. 

CANMORE – RCMP are investigating after a man wearing a wingsuit plunged to his death near Canmore on Sunday.

Police say the 40-year old Edmonton-area man crashed into trees below Ha Ling Peak around 9:30 a.m.

The victim’s name has not been released by officials, but friends have identified him as Gabriel Hubert.

“He was a great guy, was featured in a Vice news story, on National Geographic and a few other news stories over the years,” wrote close friend Peter Kozak. “Traveled extensively to BASE jump and was well-known all over the world.”

“It’s a big loss to our Alberta BASE jumping community. He was a really great, fun, life-of-the-party kind of person who loved being in the spotlight.”

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Another close friend, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Hubert was an amazing, knowledgeable person who helped everyone to stay safe during jumps.

“An inspiration and mentor to many other jumpers and a leader,” wrote the friend.

Kozak and friends started a GoFundMe campaign in order to raise money for Hubert’s wife, 10-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son. For more information or to donate, click here.

Friends have identified an Edmonton man in a wingsuit who died on Sunday, June 7, 2015 as Gabriel Hubert. Facebook

A release from the RCMP’s Canmore detachment says he and two companions had jumped from the mountain wearing wingsuits — a sport referred to as wingsuit flying.

The specialized outfits have fabric stitched between the arms and body that increases a jump’s surface area, and allows a user to fly impressive horizontal distances at a slower descent rate.

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“The only thing we have an understanding of is that his parachute did not deploy,” said RCMP Sgt. Ryan Currie on Monday. “I cannot say for certain if it was human error or an equipment malfunction.”

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene; his two companions landed safely.

“Ha Ling Peak is actually a fairly accessible mountain,” added Currie. “A lot of people do hike the trail up the backside to reach the peak.”

“A lot of people do use that area for BASE jumping with wingsuits and parachutes. It’s common for people to use it, but not common for us to have accidents of this sort.”

The Calgary Chief Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating.

Watch below: National Geographic writer Andrew Evans posted the below video in 2012 of Hubert and three fellow BASE jumpers in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

While parachutists experimented with wings as early as the 1930s and there was another wave in the 1960s, commercial wingsuits weren’t developed until the late 1990s in Europe.

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Sometimes referred to as flying squirrel suits or birdman suits, several companies now sell them for between US$700 and US$1,800.

Speeds can exceed 160 km/h.

Last month, two jumpers in Yosemite National Park were killed instantly when they attempted to zoom through a notch in a ridgeline and slammed into a rocky outcropping.

Dean Potter, 43, and Graham Hunt, 29, were experienced at flying in wingsuits. Potter, who had been featured in a National Geographic documentary on wingsuits called “Fly or Die,” was considered one of the biggest inspirations of his generation in the climbing community. Hunt was one of the most prolific BASE jumpers in that part of California.

In 2009, Potter set a record for completing the longest BASE jump from the Eiger North Face in Switzerland by staying in flight in a wingsuit for two minutes and 50 seconds. The feat earned him the Adventurer of the Year title by National Geographic magazine.

With files from Global’s Jessica Kent, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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