California wingsuit flier dies after jumping from Arizona cliff

Arizona authorities are attempting to recover the body of a California man who died Tuesday while wingsuit flying with friends in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is planning to recover the body of 29-year-old Mathew Kenney of Santa Cruz on Thursday, Lt. Bret Axlund said. Kenney’s body is 600 feet below the top of the cliff from where he jumped. His body is trapped in a small crevice.

“Due to the weather and the fact that the tops of the rocks are capped with ice, we’re having difficulty getting anchors into the rock,” Axlund said.

There had never been a death from BASE jumping in the Paria Canyon before Kenney’s, Axlund said. BASE jumping has become more common in the area in recent years, he added.

Kenney was among a group of 10 people who were jumping; all were “highly experienced” Axlund said. Axlund said Kenney hit the side of the mountain, but it’s unclear how it happened.


It appeared that Kenney was trying to fly through a “notch” in the contours of the mountain, but didn’t have enough elevation to do so, Axlund said. Axlund described the notch as an indentation in the mountain.

Kenney had done 1,000 jumps prior to Tuesday’s incident, Axlund said.

“Any time you jump from a cliff in such close proximity and fly in a wingsuit in excess of 100 miles an hour, feet away from obstructions, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous position,” Axlund said.

Last year, rock climbers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt died in a BASE jumping accident at Yosemite National Park while attempting to clear a notch on the mountain.

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