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Fallen trooper spent his life serving others, family says

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FARMINGTON — Arik Beesley was expecting a call Saturday night from his older brother and Utah Department of Public Safety colleague.

It was common for trooper Aaron Beesley to call after returning from a mission like the one that afternoon when a pair of teenage hikers were stranded on Mount Olympus.

"Last night, I got the wrong phone call," Arik Beesley said.

Like so many times before, Aaron Beesley put his life on the line to assist those in life-threatening situations. That part the mission was a success; both hikers made it home safely.

Beesley did not.

The 13-year veteran of the Utah Highway Patrol was killed during that search-and-rescue operation after apparently losing his footing and falling approximately 60 feet.

Beesley, of Bear River, was 34. He leaves behind a wife, Kristie, and three sons, Austin, 7, and Derek and Preston, 4-year-old twins.

"Every day of his life was spent serving people," Arik Beesley said Sunday. "There have been many calls Aaron has responded to, many lives Aaron's saved."

Arik Beesley joined family and law enforcement colleagues at the Utah Highway Patrol's Farmington office for a news conference Sunday afternoon.

DPS Commissioner Lance Davenport called Aaron Beesley "a wonderful public servant, husband, father, son and brother."

"I want his family and the citizens of this great state to know what a great loss this is for us and what a wonderful and devoted public servant he was," Davenport said. "He served his time with honor and distinction, right up to the last minute of his life."

About 4:30 p.m., Salt Lake County search and rescue crews responded to a call about two teenage hikers stranded on the Mount Olympus. When it was determined the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was needed for the rescue, Aaron Beesley answered the call.

Beesley was aboard the helicopter as the technical flight officer, assisting pilot Shane Oldfield in the search, said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Fuhr.

"Aaron's primary responsibility was to find those individuals," Fuhr said. "The pilot navigates the helicopter."

Beesley located the two hikers — a young man and a young woman — but was not able to determine from the air if they needed medical attention. He grabbed the medical bag, found a place to offload it and threw it in the area of the hikers.

Oldfield then had to find a place where Beesley could do a skid offload, which, Fuhr explained, involves the helicopter placing its skids up to a rock, allowing a rescuer to climb out when there's not a good place to land.

"(Beesley) secured the two individuals who were lost, made sure they were medically sound, and then one by one loaded them into the helicopter," Fuhr said.

Oldfield flew the young woman down the mountain first, then returned for the young man. The plan was for Oldfield to fly the teen to safety while Beesley retrieved the medical bag.

"Aaron told Shane, 'I'm going to grab that bag. Come back and pick me up,'" Fuhr said.

Oldfield returned to retrieve Beesley, but the trooper wasn't there.

"Nobody knows what happened, but we believe that when he went to go secure that bag, he lost his footing and fell down the ravine," Fuhr said.

Salt Lake County crews involved in the rescue of the hikers then searched the area for the trooper and spotted his body approximately 60 feet below the landing site, Sheriff Jim Winder said.

It took crews another 45 minutes to reach the Beesley. The trooper was pronounced dead at 8:20 p.m., Winder said.

"It is with a great deal of sorrow that we are here tonight to announce this passing," the sheriff said during a late-night news conference Saturday in Murray. "This trooper died in the line of duty while engaged in a heroic effort, the rescue of two individuals."

Winder said Beesley had assisted Salt Lake County and other agencies in several rescues.

"He has given his all in an act of devotion to our community," he said.

Beesley worked for the Department of Public Safety for 13 years, serving in Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties, said one of his colleagues, Lt. Steve Winward. He also served as assistant fire chief in Corinne, Box Elder County.

Beesley's most recent assignment was providing technical support for the data collection of accident reports, in addition to working many shifts as a technical flight officer, Windward said.

"It's a big loss for our department," he said. "It's been many years since we lost a trooper in this department. A lot of officers are taking this very hard."

Colleagues described Beesley as a decorated officer who had earned several medals, including a Lifesaving Medal of Excellence.

Beesley also was very tech-savvy, Winward said, and had designed iPhone and Android phone applications to assist helicopter pilots. He also designed an app to help with standardized field sobriety tests.

"He was one of our finest," Winward said.

Beesley had a knack for technology from a young age, said his mother, Laretta Beesley, of Clinton. As a boy, Aaron would pull electronics thrown away by neighbors from garbage cans and fix them.

"He could just touch something, and it would work," she said.

Aaron's father, Robert Beesley, shared a story about the time he was called into the office as a seventh-grader at Sunset Junior High — to fix the school's computers.

"He was a wizard (with technology)," he said. "He knew how to make things work."

Laretta Beesley proudly spoke with reporters about her son, calling him "brilliant young man" whose death is a loss to the world.

"I'm proud of the fact he was always willing to help someone else," she said. "He served others."


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