Dean Potter and Graham Hunt die in Yosemite base jumping accident

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (KFSN) -- The two should have landed somewhere on the Yosemite Valley floor 3,500 feet down, but they never did.

"They were in integral part of this community. It's a tragedy," said Scott Gediman, Yosemite Park Ranger.

High above the Yosemite Valley there are cliffs where daredevils dream of flight. Dean Potter, 43, was one of them. He jumped from Taft Point in a winged suit Saturday night and he didn't live to tell the story.

"He lost his life doing something he loved," said Steve Willis.

Potter jumped with a friend, 29-year-old Graham Hunt. They should have landed somewhere on the valley floor, 3,500 feet down, but they never did. A few hours later rangers got the call for help, but couldn't search for the two daredevils until Sunday.

Steve Willis and his wife Margi were standing on glacier point when a helicopter and rescue crews started the search. "We looked down and seen the helicopter, it looked like an emergency helicopter, just hovering over a grassy spot, and below it on the road was a fire truck and ambulance."

The helicopter spotted both bodies and rangers dropped in to pull them out. It's not clear what went wrong, but something did. The suits the two were wearing had parachutes, but weren't deployed.

Base jumping, which is what the two were doing, is something both have done before. They've also been sited for it in the past, because it's illegal in the park. It's also a difficult thing for rangers to catch.

"If a ranger spots somebody base jumping they'll be arrested. Sometimes we'll get information that people are," said Gediman.

Gediman says the park didn't know about Potter's final jump, but Potter definitely knew the risk. He was a world class climber. He was known for taking chances. He even set off a debate when he base jumped with his dog strapped to his back. He was also once quoted saying "Will this joy lead to harm or death?"

"There's always danger in things like that but no matter how skilled you are and how good you are at it, things can happen," said Margie Willis.

Base jumping is illegal in all national parks. There have been five fatal jumps in Yosemite. The last one was in 1999.
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