The tragic news of Shane McConkey’s death on Thursday while skiing/wingsuit flying in the Italian Dolomites would appear to have its root cause in failure of the equipment that McConkey was using. This is according to an emailed statement released by JT Holmes who was with McConkey at the time of the accident and reported by Tim Mutrie.
The statement is reproduced below:
‘Yesterday, March 26, 2009, Shane died while skiing in Italy. There are some technical aspects that are left out from this statement, and it does not touch upon the beauty of the Dolomites and the skiing we shared before the accident or Shane’s typical shining persona, full of adventure, humor and life experience.
We chose to ski off of a cliff with our wingsuits and fly them away from the cliff wall before opening our parachutes for landing. We skied and hiked off of the Pordoi cable car to a spot Shane had base jumped once before, in the summer. We spent a bunch of time preparing for the jump, building a kicker, helping each other gear up, and finally we were pleased and prepared and went for it.
Shane did a double back flip in perfect McConkey style. As planned, afterwards, he went to release his skis in order to fly away from the wall and safely deploy his parachute. This is where the jump went wrong. He was not able to release either of his skis. He remained focused on releasing them by reaching down towards his bindings. This put him into a spin/tumble/unstable falling style, that may have appeared out of his control, but in reality, Shane was not concerned about flying position or style; just concerned with reaching those skis so that he could get them off and fly or deploy his parachute. He succeeded in releasing both of skis and immediately transitioned into a perfect flying position; then he impacted the snow, and died at that moment.
The whole thing took place in about 12 seconds. Once he released the skis, he was immediately in control of the flight and would have only seen the ground and imminent impact for a tiny fraction of a second before he hit. Shane’s parachute did not malfunction; it was never deployed.’
Shane McConkey was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and became a professional skier based out of Squaw Valley, California. He won numerous awards and competitions. McConkey started as a competitive freestyle skier, but moved on to be featured in a long line of extreme skiing movies. McConkey was known for combining BASE jumping with skiing, as seen in such feats as skiing into a BASE jump off the Eiger. He had more recently taken to winsuit flying and believed there was nothing better than skiing down a mountain, launching himself off a cliff and flying like a bird.
He is survived by his wife, Sherry, and 3-year-old daughter, Ayla.
And as if we could ever forget we have included just one short video footage of Shane in action where it is self evident to see a master of his chosen profession at work – a combination of balance, grace, skill and courage.
We send our most sincere condolences to Sherry and Ayla.