Tributes to 'amazing' wingsuit champion from Willenhall who died in base jump accident
A wingsuit champion who grew up in Willenhall has died in a base jumping accident in Saudi Arabia.
Astronautical engineer Dr Angelo Grubisic, age 38, died while taking part in a planned jump in the Middle East on Tuesday, weeks after he was crowned a wingsuit champion by the British Parachute Association.
The talented scientist worked in Southampton but grew up in Willenhall, and attended Willenhall Comprehensive School, now known as Willenhall E-Act Academy, as a teenager.
His family said he “captivated the hearts and minds” of everyone he met.
His sister Natasa Grubisic said in tribute online: “My brother sadly lost his life doing what he loved. Words cannot even begin to explain the pain we all feel, it still feels like a bad dream and that I’m going to wake up from it.
“He truly was an amazing guy and brought so so much to this world and had so much more to give. What he achieved in his short life was incredible, and there was nothing he couldn’t do and I mean nothing. The guy had it all.
“Angelo has truly left his stamp on this world, and I know so many people across the world will be effected by his passing.”
His cousin Tina Poulton also paid tribute online saying: "I have always been so proud you, your achievements and pure inspiration."
Angelo had led a wingsuit design team at the University of Southampton where he lectured in astronautics and advanced propulsion.
He had previously worked on spacecraft propulsion for the European Space Agency and NASA – and in 2015 he set up the ‘Icarus Project’ which sought to design a world-record breaking wingsuit while improving safety.
A University of Southampton spokesman said: “It is with immense sadness, that we inform staff, students and alumni of the death of Dr Angelo Grubisic.
“In his time with us, Angelo made many pioneering contributions to the Faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences’ research on astronautics.
“He was incredibly popular with his students and colleagues.
“Staff in Engineering will remain in contact with Angelo’s family, and are supporting staff and students who have been affected.
“Our thoughts are with Angelo’s family at this very difficult time.”
One of his former pupils described the highly regarded scientist as a “real life rocketman who was a fantastic lecturer and inspiration to us all”.
His family said that Dr Grubisic was “phenomenally talented”.
Last year, the aerospace engineer told Ontario Tech University that his goal was straightforward – to try to fly faster, higher and further than any human.
He told the institution that sometime in the next couple of years, he intended to make the highest-ever altitude jump by leaping from a plane more than 12km (40,000 feet) above the ground.
In the process, he was hoping to establish the highest speed travelled in a wingsuit (as fast as 400km per hour) and set a world record for the longest wingsuit flight (more than 10 minutes), despite a minus 100C wind chill.
Dr Grubisic died just over a year after his good friend plunged hundreds of feet to his death while base jumping in the Swiss Alps.
Robert Haggarty, 47, was on the second jump of the day in Italy’s Monte Civetta range, when he crashed “uncontrollably” moments after singing Happy Birthday to his pal.
An inquest in January heard that the engineer, who had completed 500 jumps, died from unsurvivable injuries after failing to clear a cliff edge.