PAGE, Ariz. – A California man died Tuesday while wingsuit flying among remote cliffs on the Arizona-Utah border. Authorities are continuing to work Friday to recover the man’s body from the cliff.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area where 29-year-old Mathew Kenney, of Santa Cruz, jumped to his death Tuesday while wingsuit flying with friends, according to a media statement issued by the Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities located Kenney’s body in the steep canyon walls below where he jumped, approximately 15 miles north of Lee’s Ferry in a rugged and desolate area within the Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip District, according to the statement.
The Sheriff’s Office Short Haul Team and an Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter responded to recover Kenney’s body. However, steep terrain and patches of ice atop the canyon walls kept crews from being able to safely anchor in order to access the body.
Attempts made Thursday to recover Kenney’s body from the crevice of the cliff were also unsuccessful.
“Our Search and Rescue Coordinator continues to meet with assisting agencies to discuss plans and options for a recovery of the body,” the Sheriff’s Office said Thursday, “while maintaining the safety of the recovery crew.”
Wingsuit flying is one of the most extreme forms of BASE jumping, an activity which involves jumping with a parachute from tall structures such as buildings, bridges and natural features — BASE being an acronym of the different platforms: “building, antenna, span and Earth.”
A video posted on Vimeo in August 2012 shows wingsuit-flying footage shot by Kenney and fellow wingsuit fliers.
Wingsuit fliers glide frighteningly close to cliffs and trees in their suits that resemble flying squirrels. It is illegal in national parks but not in the wilderness area where Kenney jumped.
The Vermilion Cliffs rise as much as 3,000 feet. The area is popular with hikers for its slot canyons and a formation known as The Wave, a geologic rock formation with intersecting U-shaped troughs and swirls of reds, oranges and yellows that fold into a bowl.
The Sheriff’s Office said it is continuing to work with other agencies, including Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue, National Park Service Search and Rescue and Bureau of Land Management, to devise a plan that will allow rescuers to safely access and recover Kenney’s body.
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