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Park rangers recover BASE jumper's body at Zion

Published March 25, 2014 12:37 pm

S. Utah • Climbers, helicopter retrieve remains from rugged, remote area.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Search and rescue crews on Tuesday morning recovered the body of a renowned BASE jumper who may have plunged to his death southern Utah's Zion National Park as long as a week and a half ago.

Park spokeswoman Aly Baltrus confirmed that the body of Sean Leary, 38, of California, was recovered by 11 a.m. after a nearly five-hour effort in which rangers climbed down to the remains 300 feet below West Temple peak of the park's southern area.

Beginning at 7:30 a.m., a National Park Service helicopter was used to "short haul" two rangers to an area just above the body. From there, they used ropes to climb down, secure accident evidence and secure Leary's remains. Next, the body and the rangers were retrieved by the helicopter on separate trips.

Leary, also a film stuntman and accomplished mountain climber, as well as a "wing suit" flier, is survived by his wife, Mika, who reportedly is pregnant with their child.

Baltrus said Leary may have actually leaped to his death around March 13. On Sunday, after not hearing from him and learning his rental car was overdue for return, Leary's family notified park officials.

Late Sunday afternoon, a Park Service helicopter spotted his body below West Temple peak, where it had landed on a rock formation.

The remote, rugged terrain, along with crosswinds, delayed efforts to recover the remains.

Baltrus said the park has information that Leary was alone on his BASE jumping trip. His rental car was located in nearby Springdale, parked on a road bordering the park.

BASE jumping — leaping with a parachute from tall structures such as buildings, bridges and natural features — is illegal in Zion National Park.

Nonetheless, the death was the second involving a BASE jumper at the park this year. Last month, Amber Bellows, 28, of Salt Lake City, jumped 2,000 feet to her death from Mount Kinesava.

A malfunctioning parachute was blamed for Bellows' death. The cause of the second fatal Zion fall was under investigation.

A third BASE-jumping death occurred last Friday night when 35-year-old Kevin Morroun of Moab died after launching himself into Grand County's Mineral Canyon.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims