BASE jumpers plan to congregate at Mineral Canyon near Moab in November to "celebrate the lives" of two colleagues who died July 18 when their single-engine airplane crashed while scouting jump sites near the head of the canyon.
Clint Ford, 22, of Brush, Colo., and Earl Redfern, 43, of Moab, were killed instantly when the wing of Ford's Grumman AA-5 Traveler apparently clipped the edge of the canyon wall and the plane crashed into a rock talus slope and burned. The pair had left the Moab airport on the afternoon of July 18, when temperatures were recorded between 105 and 108 degrees, did not file a flight plan and triggered a five-day aerial search by the Civil Air Patrol, local pilots, the Utah Highway Patrol and Grand County Sheriff.
The crash site was 15 miles southwest of the airport and two miles outside the northern boundary of Canyonlands National Park. Redfern was an internationally known BASE jumper who was the first to successfully jump off several pinnacles and cliffs in the Moab area. He also was an experienced commercial pilot who flew air taxi service regularly in the canyons, where summer heat and unpredictable wind currents create hazardous flying conditions. Clint Ford had recently obtained his pilot's license; authorities were unable to determine who was piloting the plane.
News of the two men's deaths was posted on a popular BASE jumping Web site (www.baselogic.com) and was greeted with expressions of condolences from around the world.
"Thanks to Earl for opening up many new sites in Moab for the sport of BASE jumping's future," wrote Susan Eddy. "He left a legacy for us to follow. Remember, be cautious always and have fun."
Added another BASE jumper: "Let's take time to reflect on the good times we had with our fallen brothers. Fly high, Clint. On headings, Earl. We will miss you both."
Enthusiasts plan to gather Nov. 4 in Mineral Canyon to honor the men with an impromptu celebration of BASE jumping. Since Mineral Canyon is located on BLM land, the activity is legal. In nearby Canyonlands National Park, BASE jumping is banned.
"We don't have a lot of BASE jumping going on in the park simply because there's hundreds of miles of cliffs on BLM land that have roads on the top and roads on the bottom, which allows them to do several jumps in a short time," said Steve Swanke, Canyonlands district ranger in Moab. "The park does not have that kind of road access. So you find in season, there are thousands of BASE jumps happening on a weekly basis on the BLM lands here."
© 2000 The Salt Lake Tribune