Tuesday, May 30, 2017 – Witnessing a terrible accident

I spent several hours visiting Arches National Park today.  I got thru about half of it when I decided it was a little warm for me.

I went back to the trailer to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my day.

I had read about an evening boat trip:

 

Sound and Light Show Jet Boat Tour Details

Your evening begins at our Colorado Riverside location two miles north of Moab, Utah. You will be served a cowboy-style Dutch oven dinner in a dining room overlooking the Colorado River. After dinner, you will be our guest on a a flat-bottomed boat as we head up river with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide who will point out things of interest and ignite your imagination.

Once darkness settles in, the formal part of the evening begins with 40,000 watts of natural light illuminating the canyon wall. Lights, shadows, music, and narration make the stories of the canyon’s formation, creation, and history come to life on the walls above the river—as learned from the early settlers of the area (the Catholic conquistadors, Native Americans, and Mormon pioneers).

The Canyonlands by Night and Day Sound and Light Show is a not-to-be-missed unique experience and a great end to a perfect day in Moab.

The cost for dinner and the boat tour was $69. I booked the tour at 5:00pm online and headed out at 6:30pm for the dinner.

The dinner was fine.  Pretty basic but I have had worse.  You are seating in long tables.  I met some people from Lacygne, Kansas.

It had been a warm day but as the sun was setting and the breeze off the water it was getting cooler.  About 50 people boarded the boat at 8:00pm.  The picture below is from there website showing what the boat looked like.  You have assigned seats and are facing forward where the tour guide stands.  The tour guide had to be at least 75 years old.  He was interesting and did a pretty good job.  We started out hearing basic information about Moab and the surrounding area as we started out on the Colorado River.

Sound & Light Show Tour image

About 30 minutes in to the presentation we were going by one of the many cliff areas and the guide started talking about how you often saw base jumpers using that cliff.  He even explained what base (buildings, antennas, spans and earth) stood for.  So basically if someone puts on a parachute and jumps off very tall things or places that is base jumping.

Then almost as if it was planned, someone on the boat said they saw someone on the top of the cliff.  Of course we all looked and yes there was someone up there.  He then waved at us and we all waved back.  He disappeared and then about a minute later he reappeared and jumped off the cliff.  We were all then reaching for our cameras (as tourists love to take pictures of everything) and while we were watching something went terribly wrong.

Maybe a third of the way down, he crashed in to the cliff wall and bounced off, went down a few feet and then crashed in to the wall again and I think maybe he crashed in a third time before disappearing on to a ledge about half way down the cliff.  We were all stunned and shocked by what we just saw happen.  The tour guide told the boat captain to stop and call 911.  They radioed the office who then called 911.

We then sat there for at least 20 minutes or longer while waiting for emergency personnel to respond so we could point out where we last saw him.  The tour guide had a laser pointer that he had been using to point out things that he used to show the area.  The ambulance arrived first without lights and sirens.  There was nothing they could do until search and rescue teams could reach the man.  Once the police arrived the tour guide decided to continue with the tour.  He did his best but of course we all had our minds on what we saw and what was happening with the rescue.

We continued a few miles with the tour guide pointing out things.  Then the last part of the tour is a recorded program talking about the history of Moab, etc and a big truck with large special lights drives along side the river highlighting the cliff sides.  Of course by the time we got back to the area of the accident, search and rescue were making there way up the cliff side in the dark.  The tour company has a second truck so it was set up with the large lights illuminating a path to try to assist the rescue teams.  The tour guide stated that Moab has the busiest search and rescue team in Utah.  Last year, the team handled 155 incidents in the Moab area.

Most of us were not really listening to the program by the end.  At this point, we were all feeling the same.  We had witnessed a terrible accident, there was nothing we could do to help and we were all wondering if the man was still alive.

So we got back to the dock about 10:30pm.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Here is the article from the paper:

Moab man dies in BASE jumping accident

Staff Report Moab Sun News | Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 8:07 pm

A 34 ­year­ old Moab man was killed this week in a BASE jumping accident near the Goose Island Campground just north of town.

Seth F. Graham was alone at about 8:41 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, when he set off from the “G Spot,” a 320­foot cliff above the recreation site.

Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said that a Canyonlands by Night employee was leading a boat tour along the Colorado River and was pointing out a rock formation when he saw Graham, who waved to the tourists down below.

Witnesses reported that Graham then jumped from the cliff. His parachute’s canopy opened, but for reasons that are currently unknown, Neal said that Graham struck a rock about two­thirds of the way down, and his parachute then dragged him down a talus slope.

Grand County Emergency Medical Services, Grand County Search and Rescue and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene, which is located off state Route 128 about 1 mile east of the junction with U.S. Highway 191.

A Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew recovered Graham’s body on the morning of Wednesday, May 31. His body was later transported from Spanish Valley Mortuary to the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner in Salt Lake City. The cause of the accident remains under investigation

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