SOUTHERN UTAH – The body of a California man who died last week while wingsuit flying with friends among remote cliffs on the Arizona-Utah border was recovered Sunday after numerous attempts over a five-day span had been unsuccessful.
A private group of professional technical climbers engaged by family members rappelled down the steep canyon walls of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness where the body of 29-year-old Mathew Kenney, of Santa Cruz, California, came to rest, according to a news release issued by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, one week after Kenney’s death.
The climbers then lowered Kenney’s body to a slope, the statement reads, where an Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter and crew based out of Kingman, Arizona, performed a one-skid landing – a technique used in rugged terrain and steep slopes where the topography prevents a normal landing with both skids on the ground.
“The DPS helicopter off-loaded a Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue technician and was able to conduct a long line extraction of the body to Lee’s Ferry,” the report states, “where it was released to the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office.”
Members of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Technical Rescue Team and a National Park Service helicopter from Grand Canyon had previously attempted a body recovery by helicopter Thursday. However, due to safety issues from steep terrain, patches of ice on the canyon and incoming weather, the recovery was suspended and additional plans were discussed for a technical recovery.
Authorities had located Kenney’s body last week in the steep canyon walls below where he jumped to wingsuit fly, approximately 15 miles north of Lee’s Ferry in a rugged area within the Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip District, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
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 extremely close to cliffs and trees in their suits that resemble flying squirrels. The sport is illegal in national parks but not in the wilderness area Kenney jumped, where the Vermilion Cliffs rise as much as 3,000 feet.
The area is popular with hikers for its tall escarpments, deep 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.
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