With the recent deaths of base jumpers, Dean Potter and his jump partner, Graham Hunt, the sport has been called into the spotlight once again. Many point to the fact that the dangerous sport involves participants jumping without safety harnesses is illegal for a reason – and that reason is that there is no room for error in this sport. Mess up once and it is likely you are dead. Others end up paralyzed or damaged beyond repair.
However, within the base jumping community, there is no greater jumping legend than Dean Potter. The man had defied death and gravity for more than 20 years. Of course, what Potter and Hunt were attempting was an even more dangerous offshoot of base jumping – wingsuit flying. This variant uses special suits designed to help participants glide through the air as they descend.
But, as the critics claimed would happen, Dean Potter plunged to his death doing the very thing he loved on May 16. Many assumptions were made about how Dean Potter and Graham Hunt lost their lives but now the final picture has been revealed. Dean Potter’s GoPro camera caught the base jumpers very last moments. According to the Daily Mail, Yosemite Park’s chief of staff, Mike Gauthier, said Hunt hit a ridge on the rock face first. It appears Dean was employing evasive maneuvers in order to avoid the same fate as his jumping companion. Gauthier also claims the video footage shows Potter swooping left before hitting the same area of rock face just a split second later.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the pair started their descent of Taft Point at dusk. The pair wore what are called “batsuits,” which are designed to help them glide downward at 160km/h through the dangerous rock outcrops and to the safety of solid ground. What happened instead is an accident that resulted in Graham Hunt losing his life followed closely by the death of Dean Potter. Their bodies were not spotted until the next day.
Park officials are using the video from Dean Potter’s helmet, along with still images taken by witnesses and video taken by Potter’s girlfriend, Jenn Rapp, to piece together what went wrong.
In the last year, it has been reported five people have died as a result of base jumping, even though the sport is illegal and participants risk fines and having their equipment confiscated if caught by authorities. Of course, being caught by authorities is definitely better than suffering the fate of Dean Potter and Graham Hunt.
[Image credit: Getty Images / David Cannon]