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Professional base jumper credits GPS device for saving him

By Jed Boal | Posted - Aug. 29, 2012 at 10:33 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man was recovering from injuries Wednesday night after a wingsuit base jumping crash stranded him on the side of a cliff.

His accident could have turned out a lot worse, Marshall Miller said, if it hadn't been for a high-tech safety beacon that he always carries.

"I was 1,000 feet from the top of this cliff, and yet 2,000 feet from the bottom," the professional wingsuit base jumper explained.

The Spot GPS Messenger is a a satellite rescue beacon growing in popularity for wilderness activity. Press the red button, and help is on the way.

Marshall and his team of local base jumpers is very glad that it works. They prioritize safety because accidents can be very serious in their line of work.

When Miller, Jesse Hall and the GoPro Bomb Squad drop off a 3,000 foot cliff in their wing suits, they fly.

"It's like you're a jet with your head on front," Hall said.

"It's an unreal experience," Miller added. "We're able to hike to the top of these mountains and enjoy nature, and jump off and really fly away."

The team dove off the isolated Notch Peak in Millard County 10 days ago. Wind conditions forced Miller to open his parachute early.

"As my parachute opened, it unfortunately ran me into the wall that we just jumped off of," he said.

The impact severely sprained his ankle and wrist, and gashed his elbow. With no cellphone coverage, Miller radioed his fellow jumpers, who each had a SPOT GPS Tracker.

"It was just something we couldn't handle ourselves," Hall said. "So I just plugged in the search and rescue button, and they instantly were notified and knew his exact coordinates where he was on the mountain."

The signal went out to family members, and a SPOT dispatch center that contacted Millard County rescuers. They arrived quickly and stabilized Miller, then airlifted him out in the morning.

"If you're out of cellphone service, this is the only thing that can really help you," Hall said.

The stunt artists think it's a good idea for many of us when we're in the wilderness.

Millard County Sheriff's Lt. Morris Burton called it a fabulous device, especially since his crew of rescuers knew exactly where to find the injured jumper. Even if they get false alerts, he says that's better than not saving someone.

"We've used these things for years, but I've never understood the power of these, until you're in a situation like that where it's life and death," Miller said.

The SPOT GPS Messenger sells for about $100 at local outdoors stores. If you want to find out more about wingsuit base jumping, you can get in touch with the GoPro Bomb Squad through their Facebook page.

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