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After 24-mile jump, local skydivers look for next record breaker


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SALT LAKE CITY — Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner's 24-mile jump on Sunday captivated audiences in Utah, especially among fellow thrill-seekers.

The owner of Skydive Utah in Tooele remembers when Joe Kittinger made the last record-breaking jump in 1960. This time, technology and cameras captured every moment, and he guesses that as that jump happened, every drop zone in the country shut down to watch, like his did.

"I almost had tears in my eyes, just having witnessed it," said Jack Guthrie, owner of the drop zone.

Skydivers in Utah watched Baumgartner's death-defying free-fall with awe and if they were like Guthrie, wished it could have been them.

"I don't know any skydiver that wouldn't have loved to be there, done that," Guthrie said.

Guthrie, no stranger to free-falling himself, has jumped 10,300 time in the 44 years since he began. Fifteen years ago, he made the final cut to break the record for a high-altitude jump, but the plans fell through. He says he would have done it, even without the fanfare.

"In my opinion, I wouldn't have even needed to tell somebody just to say I've done it," Guthrie said. "Skydiving is intensely personal."

At Skydive Utah, people jump from 13,500 feet, typically freefalling for a minute before opening the chute.

NASA Ambassador Patrick Wiggins knows the thrill of the jump and shares Guthrie's passion for skydiving. He's been following Baumgartner and was eager to see the jumper pull it off.

"Why did it have to be him? It could have been me," Wiggins said.

Guthrie and Wiggins know Baumgartner's attempt comes with risks and the many things that could have gone wrong. Guthrie's advice for the timid is pretty simple, though.

"If you're worried about something happening, don't drive your car. I'll bet you he's safer than driving," Guthrie said. "If you're going to skydive, the most dangerous part of your day is driving home."

The record-breaking feat has just left people like Wiggins, wanting more. They want to know if Baumgartner will break his record.

"I've heard people say he's jumping from the edge of space: Keep in mind, the international agreement of what space is, is 100 kilometers up. He wasn't even half(way) — there's room to go," Wiggins said of Sunday's jump.

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Sandra Yi

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