PAGE, Ariz. - On Jan. 12, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office responded to the report of a death in Paria Canyon involving a man who was wingsuiting with friends. The body of Mathew Kenney, 29, of Santa Cruz, California, was found in the steep canyon walls of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area within the BLM Arizona Strip District, 15 miles north of Lees Ferry.
A Short Haul Team from the Coconino County Sheriff's Office and an Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter attempted to recover the body on Jan. 12. Due to the steep terrain and icy conditions on top of the canyon walls, officers were not able to safely anchor in order to access the body. The Sheriff's office worked with other agencies including Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue, National Park Service Search and Rescue, and Bureau of Land Management to develop a plan that would allow rescuers to safely access and recover the body.
According to Lieutenant Bret Axlund with the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, Kenney was a highly qualified and experienced jumper.
"He had, according to the folks he was with, he has about 1,000 jumps under his belt," he said. "He's not new to the sport."
Axlund said Kenney was aware of the dangers of wingsuit jumping, which is similar to base jumping but uses the wings on the suit to fly at a more horizontal angle in order to cover more territory.
"It's an inherently dangerous sport in which they jump off a cliff," he said. "The proximity that they're traveling is in excess of a hundred miles an hour alongside these cliffs. It's not uncommon for these guys to run into something."