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BASE jumper dies after leap at Zion National Park in Utah

By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A BASE jumper has died after leaping from a peak in Utah's Zion National Park, known for its sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons, in the second such death there in less than two months, the U.S. National Park Service said on Monday.

The man's body, which was spotted by a helicopter crew, was in steep, difficult terrain where canyon crosswinds restrict the use of aircraft, the park service said. It could take several days to retrieve it, they said.

Park officials said they were alerted Sunday morning that a BASE jumper was overdue. A search team is expected to attempt to retrieve the body on Tuesday by climbing and rappelling to its location near West Temple, a peak near the southern end of the park, park service spokeswoman Alyssa Baltrus said. A helicopter will be used if conditions allow.

BASE jumping is an extreme sport that involves leaping from a fixed point - a building, bridge or natural feature - using a parachute. The sport is illegal in Zion National Park, which draws about 3 million visitors annually.

It's not clear how many BASE jumps occur in the park, although most take place away from Zion's main canyon, Baltrus said. Park officers investigate all reported jumping activity and issue tickets to those caught, she said.

It was not immediately clear when the man attempted the leap. Officials are waiting to recover the body and make a positive identification before releasing the BASE jumper's name, Baltrus said.

Last month, a 28-year-old Salt Lake City newlywed, Amber Bellows, died after attempting a jump from Zion's Mount Kinesava. The woman's husband told authorities her parachute failed to open and she fell about 2,000 feet. Her death was the park's first BASE jumping fatality, park officials have said.

Also in Utah on Friday, a 35-year-old Moab man died in a BASE jumping accident after attempting a jump from a cliff west of that city in southeastern Utah, Grand County authorities said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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