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Search for missing BASE jumper comes up empty

By adminon - Read 2752 times

HANSEN -- His friends warned him not to jump. It was too dark. The wind wasn't right. The water was too high.

But 29-year-old Roger Butler, an experienced BASE jumper who once parachuted from the Stratosphere hotel tower in Las Vegas, apparently died Sunday after jumping from the Hansen Bridge and disappearing in the water.

"All of them tried to talk him out of it, but he had to do it," said Cpl. Daron Brown of the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office. "The guy was experienced, but he made a bad choice."

With the help of a brand-new underwater camera, search and rescue teams from Jerome and Twin Falls counties continued searching the frigid Snake River Monday for signs of Butler and his parachute, but the search was called off as sundown neared. Water flow at the Minidoka Dam was stopped late Monday to lower the water level and aid searchers when they continue this morning.

The counties don't know the cost of the search.

Butler, who had made more than 600 BASE jumps, spent Sunday with three friends parachuting from the Perrine Bridge, a popular spot for BASE jumpers because it is legal to jump there. BASE stands for building, antenna, span and earth.

In October 1999, this same group had parachuted with a woman the day before she broke her back in a jumping accident at the Perrine Bridge, said Nancy Howell, spokeswoman for the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office.

The group was headed back to Ogden, Utah, Sunday before stopping at the Hansen Bridge, where jumping also is legal. With his friends videotaping, Butler jumped from the west side of the bridge and glided toward the water without a hitch, but he ran into trouble after hitting the river, Howell said.

It wasn't immediately clear what happened, but shortly after landing in the water Butler and his chute disappeared below the surface. Neither has been seen since, she said.

Butler was not wearing a life jacket, and he was jumping into a highly inaccessible area of the Snake River Canyon, Brown said.

"BASE jumping is like whitewater rafting," he said. "It's a self-saving sport. You can't expect to jump off a bridge and have someone come and save you."

Butler's taste for daring jumps was passed down from his father, a parachuter for 30 years, said Paul Butler, an uncle who drove to Twin Falls after the accident.

Roger Butler watched his father nearly die in a 1998 parachuting accident that almost cost the older Butler his leg. But a year later father and son were parachuting together again during a Fourth of July celebration, Paul Butler said.

"He just loved to do this," Paul Butler said of his nephew. "He loved to fly."

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