Yosemite death a tragic waste

The irony of a skydiver's death at Yosemite National Park last Friday is matched only by its tragedy.

Jan Davis, 60, died when her parachute failed to open during a leap from El Capitan, a spectacular 3,200-foot cliff recognized worldwide as one of the symbols of the park.

The irony is that Davis was jumping from El Capitan to show how safe it was - a protest of the park's ban on parachuting from its awesome heights.

The tragedy is that park rangers, well aware of the planned protest, actually assisted the jumpers. (Davis was one of four; the others leaped safely.) They thought they were helping to prevent an accident. It wasn't so.

Rangers apparently had felt remorse for trying to arrest another parachutist, Frank Gambalie III, on June 9 after he jumped from El Capitan. Gambalie, trying to escape arrest, drowned in the Merced River.

So last Friday's protest became an organized, open challenge to the ban on BASE parachuting, so named for "buildings, antennae, spans and earth" from which some daredevils jump. Rangers accompanied protesters to the peak, let them jump, then arrested them and confiscated their equipment on the Yosemite Valley floor.

All except Davis, that is. She didn't live to be arrested. And her equipment - borrowed, so that her own would not be confiscated - may have been the reason.

The only remorse to come from this incident must belong to the protesters. They sacrificed a life to make a point.

In the end, the point they made is the National Park Service's: Such jumps, even in the best of circumstances, are far too dangerous to allow. But then, we already knew that.


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