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Sunday 24 September 2017

It was hell, I was plain terrified, says 'Fearless Felix'

Nick Allen Los Angeles

Felix Baumgartner, the world's first supersonic skydiver, has admitted he was "terrified" and feared he would black out as he spun violently out of control 24 miles above the Earth during his leap from the edge of space.

The man known as "Fearless Felix", whose record- breaking jump transfixed millions, admitted just how close he came to disaster, describing the descent as "like hell".

Baumgartner (43) said pressure built up in his head as he reached a top speed of 833.9mph.

His 100-strong support team on the ground, including mother Eva and girlfriend Nicole Oetl, had their hearts in their mouths as he spent 35 seconds fighting a spin which, had it got worse, risked causing the blood vessels in his brain and eyes to burst.

The Austrian stuntman, who did not look down before he jumped, said: "The exit was perfect, then I started tumbling. I thought I'd get it under control, but then it really started. I really picked up speed, it got very violent. It was really brutal at times.

"I thought for a few seconds, I'll fall unconscious. Thank goodness I managed to stop, it was very difficult. It was much more difficult than many of us expected. In that situation, when you spin around, it's like hell and you don't know if you can get out of that spin or not.

"Of course it was terrifying. I was fighting all the way down because I knew that there must be a moment where I can handle it.

"For some reason, that spin became so violent, over all axes, and it was hard to know how to get out of that spin."

Describing how he struggled to stabilise himself during the four minutes and 20 seconds in freefall, Baumgartner added: "It's like swimming without touching the water, and it's hard because every time it turns you around you have to figure out what to do. So I was sticking my arm out, then it became worse.

"I had a lot of pressure in my head. But I didn't feel like I was passing out. I was still feeling OK. I thought 'I can handle the situation'. And I did."

After seven years of planning, Baumgartner's jump had already been delayed several times, and he almost had to abort it again at the last minute.

As he ascended in a capsule under a 55-storey helium balloon his helmet visor began fogging up.

"You think you'll have to abort -- what if you've prepared everything and it fails on a visor problem? But I finally decided to jump. And it was the right decision."

His main concern was not to fail in front of his family.

"You do not want to die in front of your parents and all these people. I thought 'please God, don't let me down'."

Baumgartner has proposed to Ms Oetl, according to a friend, and they intend to get married in the New Year.

A source close to the skydiver said: "He loves Nicole like mad and now will walk her up the aisle as he has achieved the ultimate."

They will settle down in Switzerland and Baumgartner will fly mountain rescue helicopters. Before that he intends to "chill out for a few days".

"I will take it easy as hell, trust me," he said.

After breaking records for the highest and fastest skydive, Baumgartner said he hadn't been aware of breaking the sound barrier.

He said: "I didn't feel the sonic boom, I think it happens behind you."

He added that, with no reference points, "you don't know how fast you travel". (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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