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Trooper remembered as storyteller, computer 'wizard'

Published July 1, 2012 5:32 pm

Search and rescue • Aaron Beesley, 34, fell 60 feet while trying to retrieve medical bag.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Farmington • Whether he was saving a child pulled from Willard Bay or helping at the Wood Hollow Fire, when the task was done Utah Highway Patrol trooper Aaron Beesley picked up the phone and called his brother.

"Every mission he would call and tell me the details," said Arik Beesley, a fellow trooper. "Last night I got the wrong phone call."

Aaron Beesley, 34, went out Saturday as the search and rescue eyes from the air, looking for a pair of lost hikers on Mount Olympus as a pilot swept over the rugged terrain.

It was a job the 13-year veteran knew well, said UHP Col. Daniel Fuhr.

"He finds them one after another after another," Fuhr said, fighting tears.

But that wasn't Aaron Beesley's only role: He also worked with crash statistics and developed smart-phone applications for UHP, acted as assistant fire chief in the town of Corinne and was a husband and father to three boys: a 7-year-old and 4-year-old twins.

"The world lost a brilliant young man," said his mother, Laretta Beesley, at a press conference Sunday.

Growing up, he was a bit of a Tom Sawyer, she said, who persuaded others to do his chores by extolling the virtues of carrying wood. He grew into a great storyteller who loved to fix things, she said, first trash cans and microwaves and then radios and computers.

"He was a wizard, just knew how to make things work," said his father, Robert Beesley, recalling how his then-seventh-grade son was asked to fix the computers at his middle school.

Likewise, the first part of Saturday's mission was a success: Aaron Beesley and pilot Shane Oldfield found the two teenagers in a treacherous area. Aaron Beesley threw out his medical bag and hopped out as the aircraft blades turned. He loaded one of the hikers, an uninjured young man, into the aircraft, and Oldfield flew him back down the mountain.

As the pilot returned, Aaron Beesley loaded up the other hiker, a young woman, and told Oldfield, " 'I'm going to get that bag. Come back and pick me up and we'll return together,' " Fuhr said Sunday.

But when Oldfield returned about 6:45 p.m., his partner was gone. Aaron Beesley apparently lost his balance grabbing the bag and fell at least 60 feet to the bottom of acliff, where he died. As darkness fell, crews spent the night on the mountain, then finished the recovery operation Sunday morning.

"He was a great man," Robert Beesley said. "He's still my son."

Aaron Beesley is the 15th trooper and the 135th police officer to die in the line of duty, according to the UHP and the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst —

To send condolences:

Col. Daniel Fuhr

Utah Highway Patrol

4501 S. 2700 West

PO Box 141775

Salt Lake City, UT 84114

801-887-3800