Climbing legend Dean Potter among 2 dead after BASE jump attempt

Posted at 8:12 PM, May 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-18 22:16:19-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Two BASE jumpers died while doing illegal jumps at Yosemite National Park on Saturday night.

Forty-three-year old Dean Potter and 29-year-old Graham Hunt were both extreme sports climbers and BASE jumpers. Potter was known for climbing delicate arch in southern Utah. The famous climb was the one that sparked a change in National Parks Services’ law forbidding people to climb on natural rock formations.

In an interview with FOX 13 News in 2006, Potter defended his decision to climb the arch.

“I respected the rock – the delicate arch so much – that the most I did to it was blow some dust off, you know, quarter-inch hand holds, with my breath, and I left it exactly the way I found it,” he said.

Shortly after his climb, the National Park Service issued a new law, forbidding climbing or base jumping on natural rock formations.

Potter and Hunt’s bodies were found during a helicopter search on Sunday. It was reported they jumped 3,500 feet from Taft Point into Yosemite Valley.

Friends of Potter and Hunter, local BASE jumpers Ammon McNeely and Mitch Potter, say because of laws against base jumping, more jumpers are doing the sport at night to lessen the risk of getting caught. But they say, this puts more lives at risk.

In a statement to FOX 13, McNeely says:

“If base jumping was legal in our national parks, they would not have been jumping at night. Visibility on these flights were most likely the main factor of these tragic accidents. Jumping in the dark greatly jeopardizes our sport. Being so worried about getting chased, tased, imprisoned and fined is not a good variable when you should be focusing on the jump.”

Utah BASE jumper Mitch Potter says the sport is safer than most people believe.

"That's what we look to change, is kind of the idea and perception, and bring it a little bit more to what's really happening,” he said. “That's not to say it's not a dangerous sport, because it could potentially be the most dangerous sport, but we just want to see it looked at objectively."