These jumpers were doing a five-way wingsuit formation. Four had previously jumped together but the jumper in the red wingsuit was new to the group. Upon exit, the jumper in the red sunk out and lost sight of the group; the group also lost sight of him. The jumper flared in an attempt to get back to the formation and, consequently, almost caused a collision with a jumper in the group.
Why did it happen
When the jumper in red sunk out, he chose to flare and come back up. This placed him almost at a stall speed while the rest of the group was at full flight. The speed difference was so high that the jumper leading the group stated:
We passed him so fast, I honestly thought he was flying in the opposite direction.”
This is arguably the wingsuit equivalent of being head-up or head-down on a vertical jump and deciding to go to belly without knowing if there’s a jumper above you.
You know what they say about assumptions…
The organizer knew that the jumper in red was inexperienced. He says he presumed – because the rest of the group knew what they were doing – that the one inexperienced jumper wouldn’t be an issue.
How could it be prevented
The jumper did not know exactly where the group was and just slammed on the brakes to pop back up. Establishing visual contact with other jumpers is key before performing any maneuver which could create a collision.
After visually confirming where everyone was, the jumper who went low should have gone out to the side, flared to get back up, then approached the formation from the side or from slightly above and to the side.
Be Critical of Everyone
The jumper who submitted this video summed up this point pretty well. He said you should never assume that – just because there are more experienced flyers on the load – that everyone knows the correct procedures in dangerous situations. He made that assumption on this jump and it could have ended very badly. If you know someone on a load isn’t quite as ninja as you and your crew, take the time to talk about safety 👍