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SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a well-known rock climber and BASE jumper who died in a wingsuit flying mishap at Zion National Park said his love of extreme sports extended his life, before it cut it short.
“I contribute what he died doing as giving us eight more years of his life,” said Erin Martin, sister of Sean “Stanley” Leary.
Leary’s body was recovered Sunday. Park officials said he jumped off of West Temple and was flying between West Temple and the Three Marys. Martin said Leary had planned to land in Springdale.
Martin described her brother as a devastated man in 2006, when he was in a car accident with his then-girlfriend. The girlfriend, Martin said, died in his arms.
“I didn’t really think he’d make it,” Martin recalled. “And instead he found something even more extreme than he was doing at the time.”
Leary, according to his sister, was primarily a big wall climber at the time. Following the accident, she said he took an interest in BASE jumping and wingsuit flying.
That gave him the sense of freedom and the ability to get over that grief,” she said.
He also developed the ability to live and love again. He married. His wife was pregnant when he died.
“I know that when he passed away that he was happy,” Martin said.
Leary quickly built a name as a rock climber, BASE jumper, and wingsuit pilot. His website stated that he set multiple speed records at Yosemite and is credited with first ascents in multiple countries.
“Pleased that I got to spend so much time with Sean,” said Leo Houlding, a world-renowned speed climber and BASE jumper based in Great Britain.
Houlding described Leary as an “unsung hero of big wall climbing” and a “philosopher,” and he shared many adventures with him, including three expeditions in the past four years.
The two were part of a climbing and BASE jumping excursion to Ulvetanna Peak in Antarctica. They intended to jump at the end of their climb, but over “Stanley’s” safety concerns, they climbed down with the rest of the party.
“There’s no way we would have all got down safely, so it says a lot about the kind of character he was,” Houlding said. “He was willing to sacrifice his own dreams to make sure people were safe.”
Martin said Leary traveled extensively to South America and Europe for climbs and jumps.
She said he taught his family to get the most out of life.
“Every day you need to take and make the most of it,” Martin said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last, and he was an expert at living life to its fullest.”
A *memorial account has been set up at Mountain America Credit Union for Leary’s wife, Mieka, and their baby under the Sean “Stanley” Leary Memorial Fund. Donations can also be mailed to the address: Mountain America Credit Union Sean “Stanley” Leary Memorial Fund at P.O. Box 9001, West Jordan, Utah 84084.