GoPro Captures Unfortunate Death Of BASE Jumpers

The tragic death of renowned climber Dean Potter and his friend Graham Hunt saddened extreme sports enthusiasts across the country. A helmet-mounted GoPro camera may reveal what went wrong when Potter and Hunt attempted a cliff jump at Yosemite National Park this past weekend. Cliff jumping is illegal in the U.S. national parks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Park officials analyzing GoPro footage

GoPro video of the deadly stunt shows that Hunt was the first to hit the ridge, said Mike Gauthier, the Yosemite National Park’s chief of staff. Potter swooped left, hitting the rocks just a split second later. On Saturday, the two men jumped from Taft Point as the sun was setting, from a height of about 3,500 feet. They wore wingsuits to glide downward at above 100mph.

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Wingsuit flying is an extremely dangerous form of BASE jumping. They were gliding through a narrow, V-shaped rocky outcropping, and there were zero margins for error. Potter and Hunt died almost instantly, and their bodies were found 50 yards apart. The GoPro camera was mounted on Potter’s helmet. Officials are using GoPro footage and other still images captured by nearby observers as part of investigation.

Potter’s girlfriend Jenn Rapp told park officials that she had also captured video of the launch and heard two impacts. Potter and Hunt both were experienced in wingsuit flying. This extreme sport has claimed at least five lives in the U.S. since January 2014. Though their death is still under investigation, it raises a serious question.

Why do extreme athletes go for such deadly stunts?

Extreme sports have grown leaps and bounds in popularity, largely due to the rise of social media and availability of cameras such as GoPro. Emma Barrett, the author of Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits, told Christian Science Monitor that these things certainly “have something to do with that.” The documentation, media coverage, and use of extreme feats in promotions have made some enthusiasts uncomfortable.

Will extreme athletes be pushed to such deadly stunts if they were not to be captured on camera or promoted over the Internet?