Citation dropped against husband of BASE jumper in fatal fall
By Bob Mims
and Erin Alberty
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 12 2014 09:46AM
Federal prosecutors have dismissed a citation issued to the newly wed husband of a woman BASE jumper killed when her parachute failed to properly open during a prohibited, 2,000-foot plunge at southern Utah’s Zion National Park.
Park spokeswoman Aly Baltrus confirmed Wednesday that 29-year-old Clayton Butler, of Salt Lake City, was given a notice of violation under the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically a section that bans parachuting from an aircraft, structure or natural feature in national parks. But as of Wednesday night, prosecutors had dismissed the charge.
"To be sure, BASE jumping in Zion National Park is unlawful, and this tragic BASE jumping accident underscores some of the reasoning behind the regulations which prohibit such conduct in Zion National Park," wrote Melodyie Rydalch, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David Barlow. "Nevertheless, the interests of justice do not warrant prosecution of Mr. Butler."
The charge was a misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail upon conviction.
Amber Bellows, 28, and Butler had been married for just two weeks when they climbed up Mount Kinesava, a 7,276-foot peak that overlooks the park, on Saturday.
The Salt Lake City couple had a reputation as experienced BASE jumpers — in which participants leap from fixed objects, such as mountains or buildings, using parachutes to slow their falls.
Bellows jumped first on Saturday afternoon, but her parachute didn’t open properly, Butler told authorities. He said he jumped after her, but he couldn’t reach her.
Butler then hiked out of the remote area to find help, alerting park authorities at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Several hours later, recovery teams found Bellows’ remains, using a helicopter to retrieve the body.
Other than confirming issuance of the citation, Baltrus could not further discuss the ongoing investigation into the incident.
In her obituary, Amber Marie Bellows was remembered as having had "an insatiable passion for life and an indomitable spirit" combined with a love for the outdoors and an "infectious smile, contagious laugh, endearing heart, and kindness."
A funeral was scheduled for Friday at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary, 3401 South Highland Drive, in Salt Lake City. The service will be at 1 p.m.
The family said donations in Bellows’ memory can be made through America First Credit Union.
BASE is an acronym which stands for building, antenna, span and earth, which are four typical locations used by BASE jumpers.