Utah Highway Patrol trooper remembered for selflessness, service
West Point • Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Aaron Robert Beesley was remembered Saturday as a tinkerer and a techie who was always building, whether it was fixing computers, constructing a fire engine or building up those around him.
"Aaron is a hero, but he's not a hero because of one rescue or three rescues," said his mother, Laretta Beesley. "Aaron was a hero every day. Aaron served constantly, and if it wasn't service for the police it was service for the soul. Aaron was one of those people who could make you feel special."
Beesley, 34, died June 30 after falling 60 feet down a cliff during the aerial rescue of a pair of stranded hikers on Mount Olympus. The father of three young boys was buried Saturday in West Point amid an outpouring of support from fellow law enforcement and firefighters and the northern Utah communities where he served.
"Is there any way to [pinpoint] the number of lives that Aaron has saved? There's no way," said UHP Lt. Lee Perry, who was Beesley's supervisor. "It far exceeds the number of medals and letters and accolades he has received."
Each year, Perry said, Beesley would be the trooper who investigated the most traffic accidents.
"You have to get up really early and drive really fast to beat Aaron Beesley to a crash," Perry said.
Laretta Beesley said her son wanted to be a firefighter from the time he was 5 years old and won a drawing to be an honorary firefighter for a day.
He got involved in amateur radios, and by the time he was a teenager, he was helping law enforcement and firefighters with communications during fire season. When he was 17, and got his own car, he was made a local captain of the amateur emergency communication network.
After serving an LDS mission in Oakland, Calif., Beesley enrolled in the police academy at Weber State University and after graduation was hired by the highway patrol.
He was constantly fixing UHP equipment, installing communications hardware, repairing computers or tinkering, said his brother, Arik Beesley, also a trooper, who told stories of riding in Aaron's old van, hunting a moose with a BB gun, and all of the extra work his brother did to help the department and others.
"He had a life better than I hope to have in the next 50 years, and he did it in 34," Arik Beesley said.
Perry said that police officers from across northern Utah would stop by Beesley's home whenever his patrol car was outside and ask him to fix broken electronics.
Beesley also worked as a firefighter with the Corinne Fire Department, where he took a truck off the military's scrap heap and rebuilt it into a wildfire fighting machine. Water cannons mounted on the front can be sprayed from inside the cab, and it allows radio communication to firefighters outside.
He did it all for $3,200, giving the department a truck that other jurisdictions have offered to buy for tens of thousands of dollars and that Perry called "a monument to him and to the Corinne Fire Department."
"It's Aaron's design, straight up, his from the ground up," said Doug Jackson, a firefighter with the Corinne department. It's the only truck of its kind in the state, he said, and does the work of six normal brush-fire trucks.
A few years ago, Beesley was transferred to the UHP's aeronautics bureau as a spotter, where Perry said he used his technical skills to maintain the helicopters and aircraft and save the bureau hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Beesley was acting as a spotter June 30 during the helicopter rescue on Mount Olympus. The pilot shuttled the first hiker down the mountain and returned for the second, whom Beesley helped load into the chopper. But when the pilot returned, Beesley had apparently slipped and tumbled down a 60-foot cliff and was dead at the bottom.
Hundreds of uniformed officers attended the funeral service at Northridge High School in Layton, and the procession of police and fire vehicles from Layton to West Point stretched several blocks. Representatives of state police and highway patrol departments from as far away as Texas, Minnesota and Missouri attended the service, and there was a flyover of four helicopters and two fixed-wing planes.
The voice of a dispatcher, Kyley Slader, a close friend, radioed for "all units stand by last call for Trooper Aaron Beesley" and called his badge number, 253 Box Elder, three times, before announcing the "final 10-42 for 253 Box Elder," meaning he had ended his duty, praising Beesley's selflessness and sacrifice and wishing him Godspeed.
Beesley was carried the eight miles to the cemetery atop a Corinne fire truck. Nearly the entire route was lined with American flags as Boy Scouts stood along the roadside saluting, and other clusters of residents offered their respects.
Flags draped across his casket were presented to his family, and the UHP honor guard fired a rifle volley.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he believes the show of support was not only for Beesley but for the service offered by other public safety officials in the state. He said that late LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball once said that people pray to God, but God often sends people as an answer to their prayers.
"I believe many have prayed and God sent Aaron Beesley to meet their need," said Herbert.