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Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park

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avatar Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park (Jumper identified)
March 24, 2014 11:00AM
From the National Park Service:

Date: March 24, 2014
Contact: Aly Baltrus, 435-772-0160


Springdale, Utah - On Sunday, March 23, 2014, Zion National Park was alerted to an overdue BASE jumper in the vicinity of the West Temple at 6:42 am. The Grand Canyon National Park helicopter crew was called in to assist with the search. They located a body, believed to be the missing BASE jumper, just before 3:00 pm.

The body is located in difficult terrain and in an area where crosswinds limit the use of a helicopter. Search and Rescue crews will assess options for recovery today. The team hopes to be able to recover the body over the next few days.

BASE jumping is illegal within Zion National Park for resource protection and safety reasons. This is the second BASE jumping fatality in Zion in just over a month. The accident is currently under investigation. The name is not being released until the victim is properly identified.




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2014 10:26AM by plawrence.
avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 05:01PM
Leave the body where it is. Why endanger more lives to get it?
avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 05:17PM
So the family of the deceased can give the person a proper funeral. NPS retrieves the bodies of others that have died on National Parks due to risky (and reckless) behavior, including retrieving those who have gone over the top of Vernal Fall.

(BTW, sadly, I know who died in the above instance. He was an acquaintance of one my rock climbing friends. His home base was Yosemite.)

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avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 08:33PM
Quote
plawrence
So the family of the deceased can give the person a proper funeral.

Why should we risk lives for that?
avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 11:19PM
Quote
eeek
Quote
plawrence

So the family of the deceased can give the person a proper funeral.

Why should we risk lives for that?


I've wondered about that myself.

But it's been the Park Service and their SAR teams policies to do so since as far as I can remember.

So why stop now?

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avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 25, 2014 04:18PM
Quote
plawrence
I've wondered about that myself.

But it's been the Park Service and their SAR teams policies to do so since as far as I can remember.

So why stop now?.
To save lives.
avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 25, 2014 04:26PM
I think one reason why SAR teams recover the bodies is to save the lives of those who might be less prepared and trained to safely retrieve them from attempting to do so on their own, if the authorities, as a matter of course and policy, just left the bodies alone.

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avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 09:34PM
Quote
plawrence
So the family of the deceased can give the person a proper funeral. NPS retrieves the bodies of others that have died on National Parks due to risky (and reckless) behavior, including retrieving those who have gone over the top of Vernal Fall.
So other people should risk their lives, possibly creating more funerals, so that these people could have a proper funeral? When should it end?
Quote

(BTW, sadly, I know who died in the above instance. He was an acquaintance of one my rock climbing friends. His home base was Yosemite.).
He knew the risks when he jumped.
Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 11:13PM
In the early 1970s, it was widely believed that the body of a deceased climber was still wedged in a crevice at the bottom of the Lost Arrow from an accident in the late 50s. Supposedly, former Yosemite Superintendent John Preston stated it was too hazardous to recover the body.
avatar Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 24, 2014 11:29PM
Quote
Dave
Quote
plawrence

So the family of the deceased can give the person a proper funeral. NPS retrieves the bodies of others that have died on National Parks due to risky (and reckless) behavior, including retrieving those who have gone over the top of Vernal Fall.

So other people should risk their lives, possibly creating more funerals, so that these people could have a proper funeral? When should it end?

Quote

(BTW, sadly, I know who died in the above instance. He was an acquaintance of one my rock climbing friends. His home base was Yosemite.).

He knew the risks when he jumped.


Of course he did, as did others who have done other risky endeavors in our wilderness areas.

And yet, SAR teams have put the lives at stake to retrieve the bodies of those individuals who've died out there.

When should it end? I don't know.

Do you have an answer to that question?

I don't know why one would think that the Park Service should make an exception in this case, except for the obvious reason: the body is simply lodged in spot that is too risky even for experienced SAR personnel to retrieve.

.
Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
March 25, 2014 06:51AM
Quote
plawrence
I don't know why one would think that the Park Service should make an exception in this case, except for the obvious reason: the body is simply lodged in spot that is too risky even for experienced SAR personnel to retrieve.

Well, I can see the arguments on both sides of this question but another obvious reason for making a distinction here is that the activity was illegal. Things like rock-climbing (and sometimes even wilderness hiking) are also risky (although arguably less so) but they are within the legally permitted use of the land. I don't think that's a fully persuasive argument for "let's ignore this one" but, if one were going to develop any kind of criteria for "retrieve or leave," that's a possible consideration.

Another option would be to adjust the "we'll pick up the tab" philosophy. Maybe continue that for legal activities but charge (or levy a fine) for injuries or deaths incurred as part of any illegal activities? I don't know, there are just so many factors to weigh here...just going off the top of my head:
  • Protect the SAR workers from potential harm
  • Does this somehow say "at the end of the day, it's ok to engage in illegal activities"?
  • Allow the family/friends a proper funeral
  • Provide closure for family/friends
  • Protect other hikers from the site of a decaying corpse (only applicable if the body were in a difficult location which was, nonetheless, in clear view)
  • It's the decent thing to do

I find this brings to mind a similar situation from a century ago: When Walter Starr, Jr went missing in 1933 (see "Missing in the Minarets") and his body was finally found, the family decided NOT to recover it from it's very precarious location (instead, they interred it in a makeshift grave on site).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/25/2014 08:14AM by DavidK42.
Re: Second BASE Jumping Fatality at Zion National Park
April 04, 2014 10:16AM
Quote
Dave
Leave the body where it is. Why endanger more lives to get it?

I think they should leave the body where it is as a warning to others that BASE jumping has consequences; up to an including death!
avatar Zion National Park BASE Jumper Recovered and Identified
March 26, 2014 10:24AM
From the National Park Service:
Date: March 25, 2014
Contact: Aly Baltrus, 435-772-0160


At approximately 11:00 am, March 25, 2014, a Search and Rescue (SAR) team consisting of members from Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and several volunteer climbers recovered a BASE jumper's body from the West Temple area. He was identified as 38-year-old Sean Leary from Sacramento, California.

Leary was last heard from on March 13. According to his family, he was planning on BASE jumping from the West Temple that evening and then was to join a group rock climbing in the park the next day. The climbing team never saw him. On Sunday, March 23, the family notified the park of the overdue BASE jumper and the National Park Service started to search. With the help of the Grand Canyon helicopter, Leary was located in an area called The Three Marys, approximately 300 feet below the ridge of the tallest peak. Harsh winds suspended all recovery efforts Sunday.

After spending Monday assessing options, planning the recovery, and closely monitoring the forecast, the combined SAR crew started the recovery at 7:00 am Tuesday. The recovery involved short-hauling two rangers to a ledge above Leary. They climbed down, began the accident investigation, and secured Leary for a long-line haul via helicopter off the peak.

Leary was an internationally known climber and BASE jumper. He was well respected within the climbing and BASE jumping community and many friends and family came to Zion National Park after hearing about the accident. Several of his experienced climbing friends were on standby to help move Leary to the top of the peak in case the helicopter had trouble reaching him. They also helped SAR rangers manage lines set up to reach Leary.

"It was obvious that Sean Leary was beloved by his family as well as the climbing and BASE jumping community. Our condolences go out to them," said Acting Superintendent Jim Milestone. "Recoveries like this one are hard on everyone, including our Search and Rescue team. Any time a park visitor dies, the National Park Service is gravely concerned."

BASE jumping is illegal at Zion National Park. "There are places within the United States that one can BASE jump, but not in Zion," Milestone explains. "There are many reasons for this, from resource protection, to visitor and employee safety, to Wilderness mandates. BASE jumping is not congruent with the founding purpose of this park."

avatar Noted Climber Killed In BASE Jump
March 31, 2014 12:12PM
On the morning of March 23rd, Sean Leary, a well-known and accomplished climber and BASE jumper, was reported missing by his wife after failing to return home to California from a trip to the park.

Investigators soon discovered that Leary had planned to BASE jump from the top of West Temple in a wing suit on the evening of March 13th, intending to fly the notch between West Temple and the Three Marys, which are east of West Temple.

Rangers working with the Grand Canyon helicopter located Leary’s remains on the north side of the Three Marys approximately 300 feet below the summit on the afternoon of March 23rd. A recovery was not attempted due to the strong crosswinds mixing near the ridgeline. Based on favorable weather forecasts, rangers instead planned a recovery effort for March 25th utilizing Grand Canyon’s helicopter.

Two rangers were short-hauled to top of the Three Marys and rappelled to Leary’s location for the accident investigation. Leary’s remains were then long-lined from the scene and the rangers were short-hauled from the summit.

Leary held the speed record for climbing the nose of El Capitan in Yosemite and interest in the climbing community was high. Several of Leary’s friends independently climbed Gentleman’s Agreement, a 5.13b, 900-foot climb up the Three Marys on March 24th and fixed lines to the summit. Four of Leary’s friends with climbing and NPS rescue experience joined rangers to form a raising team on March 25th in case the helicopter operation was not possible.

Although BASE jumping is not permitted in the park, this was the second such fatality to occur in Zion within the last six weeks. The first occurred at Mount Kinesava and was reported in the February 24th edition of this publication. A third fatal BASE jump this winter occurred at Grand Canyon and was reported in the February 16th edition.
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