Moab resident Mario Richard died Monday, Aug. 18, while wingsuit flying in the Dolomites in Italy.
Italian news media reported that he hit a cliff wall moments after his wife Steph Davis made a successful jump.
Richard, 47, was jumping from a 3,300-foot peak in the Val di Fossa near Bolzano when he apparently failed to clear a rock by three meters, said Gino Comelli, of the Alpine rescue service in Val di Fassa who was one of the rescuers at the scene.
“There are two mountain walls connected by a rock. Richard arrived three meters too low, on this rock. Then, he rolled over in a canal,” Comelli said.
Richard was jumping with a group of Italians and Canadians, wearing a webbed wingsuit designed to provide extra lift for flight. He had already done three successful jumps from the same peak the previous day, Comelli said.
Richard had skydived more than 7,000 times and B.A.S.E. jumped an estimated 2,000 times before his death.
Richard and Davis owned and operated Moab B.A.S.E. Adventures, which provided B.A.S.E. guiding and rock climbing excursions in the Moab-area. B.A.S.E. is the acronym for “Buildings Aerials Spans and Earth”, as B.A.S.E. jumpers leap from fixed objects and use a parachute to break their fall. Their company was the only outfitter to offer is tandem cliff to folks with no B.A.S.E. jumping experience.
Richard’s passion for skydiving began in childhood when he made small parachutes for G.I. Joe action figures for competitions during lunch recess in elementary school. He began sky diving in 1988 and did his first BASE jump in 1991.
Increasingly, when diving solo in their free time, the Richard and Davis wore wingsuits, sometimes called squirrel suits, to extend their flights before pulling the parachute. The suits are webbed under the arms and between the legs to slow the fall and give more experienced users some ability to maneuver through the air before pulling the parachute.
Richard moved to Moab in 2007 where he met Davis, a professional rock climber.
Davis is the author of “High Infatuation: A Climber’s Guide to Love and Gravity” and “Learning to Fly”. In the memoir “Learning to Fly” she documents how she recovered from her divorce to professional rock climber Dean Potter by learning to skydive, B.A.S.E. jump, and fly by using a wing suit. She also wrote about finding Richard who shared her passion for jumping.
Richard and Davis married in 2011, atop Parriott Mesa near Castle Valley north of Moab. They celebrated their union by running and leaping off the mesa and gliding to earth with parachutes.
Richards remains were being held in the nearby town of Canazei, pending cremation and repatriation to the United States, according to Rita Marchetti from Canazei’s city hall.
Richard is the second well-known jumper to die in a week. Mark Sutton, the skydiver who parachuted into London’s Olympic Stadium during the opening of London’s 2012 Games, died Aug. 14 in Switzerland when he crashed into a rocky ridge.
Survivors include Davis, two sisters and a brother.