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BASE jumper hits mountain, calls wife before death

Walden Grindle
Walden Grindle
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Updated: 9/24/2013 9:40 pm
ST. HELENA, Calif. (KTVU) -- New details emerged about a California man who died Sunday while BASE jumping on Mt. Saint Helena in the northern part of the state.

The injured victim, 35-year-old Walden Grindle of St. Helena, was conscious after he crashed. He was able to call his wife with his cell phone and told her he thought his hip was broken.

His emergency beacon guided rescuers to him, but when an air-evac helicopter arrived about 20 minutes later, he had died.

"I felt kind of helpless," said first responder Logan Pridmore. "We couldn't do anything for him. I felt bad it ended up that way."

YouTube video shows Grindle jumping successfully from other heights, including one clip of him executing a back flip off of a high bridge. Grindle also successfully jumped from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, though he was arrested after landing.

Local fire authorities said it's a rare activity for the area.

On Sunday afternoon, the Middletown fire station in Lake County received a call about a paraglider crashing on the 4,000-foot peak.

It turned out the sport the man was engaging in was even more extreme.

While paragliders open their gliders before they launch, base jumpers free fall and depend on a special winged suit or a parachute to save them.

CalFire Captain Bob Barron said he's seen people "do crazy things," but extreme sports aren't something he'd heard of before on Mt. Saint Helena. Most calls the department receives are to help lost hikers or bicyclists who have been injured.

Barron said Grindle may have misjudged the winds that gust on Mt. Saint Helena.

"You go up and look down from the top and it's straight down," said Barron. "A good five, six hundred feet."

Flags were lowered at the vineyard management company where Grindle had worked for more than a decade. Colleagues there said they were too distraught to talk about him.

Grindle had worked and lived in St. Helena for a decade. He graduated from UC Davis with an engineering and was a newlywed, having married his wife Danielle in December.

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