World reknowned extreme athlete Dean Potter was among the two people killed this weekend during a BASE jump in Yosemite Valley. Potter and Graham Hunt passed away on Saturday when attempting a night time wingsuit jump from Taft Point, a 7,500 foot exit point within the Yosemite National Park. The incident occurred on early Saturday night, and at 21:00, after both Potter and Hunt failed to respond to radio calls, the park officials were informed. Shortly after search and rescue crews had begun searching. The search crews were able to deploy aerial assistance on Sunday morning, when a search helicopter then spotted the bodies of both Potter and Hunt, reportedly with their parachutes undeployed.
At the time of publication, there was still little information as to what may have happened during the flight that would cause both individuals to suffer the same fate, with both parties having extended knowledge of the area and geography, though it is speculated that the two BASE jumpers had undertook a more challenging line in their wingsuit flight from Taft Point, where it is currently illegal to BASE jump.
While both Potter and Hunt were well known for their climbing and BASE jumping adventures, Potter was often seen as a face of the Yosemite climbing community, having established himself as a leading climber over the years and widely being considered one of the greatest climbers of his era. He dropped out of college to persue his climbing, where he grew his love of free climbing, speed climbing and slacklining. He later began BASE jumping, and became well known for his close relationship with his dog Whisper, who he would BASE jump with. Potter had an impressive record of first ascents and some unbelievable free solo climbs under his belt; it would be hard to argue that he was one of the best at what he did.
Potter was no stranger to controversy and both his BASE jumping and climbing decisions landed him in some hot water. His BASE jumps with Whisper lead to an outcry by some, while sponsor Clif Bar severed their sponsorship with Potter, because they wanted to distance their brand from BASE jumping and the associated dangers that is poses. He caused the biggest stir when he free solo climbed Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.
Douglas Spotted Eagle wrote a piece on the life of Graham Hunt which is published on Basejumper.com, an excerpt of which reads:
"Graham was a skydiver and BASE jump/wingsuit pilot, but what he was also well-known for, is his climbing ability. Whether climbing a rock carrying a chainsaw as a firefighter, or simply needing to get to the exit point, Graham excelled as a freeclimber. His strength seemed almost inhuman.
He first came to Skydive Elsinore in 2012 with a tracking suit in hand, and was a machine. Jump, pack, jump pack. Graham didn't socialize much, but always had a smile on his face and was very approachable. His girlfriend asked me to help her pick out a birthday gift for him, and he received an L&B; Altitrack for his birthday that year. He asked me to help him figure out how to look at the data, and in the same conversation, asked about a first flight course. Graham seemed extremely heads up during his first flight course, and I attributed that to him being a very aware tracking suit pilot. Later I learned that he'd previously had a first flight course before he had 200 jumps, at another dropzone. I asked him why he had asked for a first flight course with me, and he answered "I heard you do it differently, and I'm looking for all the knowledge I can find." Read More
Tributes for the duo poured in over social media:
Incredibly sad to hear Dean Potter reportedly died BASE jumping. He didn't have a death wish. Dean was gentle soul. pic.twitter.com/W0jNqHVYtJ— Neal Karlinsky (@NealKarlinsky) May 18, 2015
This is 70 amazing seconds of Dean Potter burning bright: https://t.co/wzUkbskRXw— Mark Bullock (@Mark_Bullock_) May 17, 2015