I was saddened to hear that 42-year-old stuntman, Mark Sutton, had been killed in an accident in the Swiss alps on Wednesday. The name alone may not mean much but if I follow by adding that Sutton was the guy who parachuted into the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony dressed as the iconic James Bond, it will underline quite why this is not simply a sad side piece on the news but a story of national and international interest.
Sutton was apparently carrying out a wingsuit flight as part of a three-day wingsuiting event for Epic TV when he crashed into a ridge of rock. 20 wingsuiters from all over the world had come together to push the boundaries, flying at speeds of around 125mph from a height of 3,300m, skirting cliffs, skimming rock faces and swooping along valley floors, all in the name of extreme sports.
Sadly Sutton’s flight – and his life – came to a premature end with a tragic accident which will touch the hearts of many and leave a devastating hole in the lives of his friends and family.
One would expect a fitting media tribute, recognition of the daring of a guy who seemed to relish living his life on the edge, but instead I have been shocked by the unfeeling rants of a bevy of bitter old hacks. I have read so many self-righteous articles over the past 24 hours, berating Sutton for so thoughtlessly taking part in an activity that could endanger his life and potentially cause heartbreak for his loved ones, I’m left wondering if I’ve entered a parallel universe.
Had Sutton been wingsuiting in the name of scientific research, apparently, he would have been a hero. Get blown up in a space shuttle? Perish in an accident as a scientific guinea pig? That would have been just fine. But the minute one chooses to do something for the pure thrill of it, no matter how groundbreaking, then according to half the world’s media you get what you deserve and you’re little more than a disgrace to your friends and family.
I’ve just finished listening to a discussion on a major radio station where a presenter and callers sat passing judgment and discussing ways in which it is “ok” to die and ways in which it isn’t, culminating in the conclusion that putting your life in danger simply because you want to push the boundaries and find out what you’re capable of apparently falls into the latter. Well not in my universe. Anyone with the guts to take their life in their hands, whether climbing the highest peak, diving the deepest lake or throwing themselves of the most dangerous cliff in a funny-shaped nylon suit has a special ingredient that the rest of us mere mortals can only dream of.
People like this are compelled to do what they do, and those around them are compelled not to stop them. They might not like it, they might fear the worst and the worst may be inevitable, but from what I can see they pretty much universally accept it, so who is the media to judge?
I didn’t know Mark Sutton. Perhaps if I did I would feel differently. But my overriding thought, apart from condolences to his family, is “what a bloody good way to go!” To Mark Sutton, and anyone else who has the single mindedness to live life on the edge, no matter what the consequences – I salute you.