Extreme athlete Dean Potter dies attempting parachute jump in Yosemite

Mon May 18, 2015 4:32pm EDT
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By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Rock climber Dean Potter and another man died while attempting parachute jumps from a 3,000-foot-high (900-metre) cliff in California's Yosemite National Park, officials said on Monday, the latest in a string of deaths nationwide in the extreme sport of BASE jumping.

The bodies of Potter and a climbing partner, Graham Hunt, were discovered Sunday after a massive search that began at dawn, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.

They were reported missing Saturday night after jumping with parachutes from a cliff near the park's storied El Capitan and Half Dome rock formations in a type of extreme sport in which climbers leap from fixed points, often bridges or high mountain cliffs.

Potter, 43, was well-known as a personality and athlete, especially in the community of rock climbers and parachutists in the western United States.

"It's a horror," said Gediman. "The mood around here is tragic. A lot of people are touched by it."

It was not immediately clear what went wrong with their jumps. There are reports that the two failed to pass safely through a notch in the rock during their descent and that their parachutes never opened, Gediman said.

Although BASE - or buildings, antennas, spans and earth - jumping is prohibited in Yosemite, Potter lived nearby and made little secret of flouting the rules.

He frequently jumped with his dog, Whisper, in tow, and last year Potter was featured in a documentary about rock climbing and the counterculture surrounding it.   Continued...

American climber Dean Potter walks barefooted on a rope which is connected between two mountain peaks in Enshi, Hubei province, China, in this file photo taken April 22, 2012. REUTERS/China Daily/Files