On Jan. 7, Moab local and veteran BASE jumper James Pouchert died in a wingsuit accident along the River Road. The Grand County Search and Rescue team, Grand County Emergency Medical Services and helicopter crews responded to the scene; the incident was the first of 2022 for GCSAR.
Pouchert was an experienced skydiver, BASE jumper, and wingsuit flyer—his first skydive was over 20 years ago and first BASE jump was over 14 years ago. He co-founded a BASE-jumping equipment and instruction company called Apex BASE along with his wife, Marta Empinotti, and friend, Todd Shoebotham. Pouchert and Empinotti offered BASE jumping instruction out of Moab.
Pouchert also helped found the annual Moab-based Turkey Boogie fundraising event, through which the BASE jumping community raises and donates funds to local charities and organizations, including GCSAR.
In a Jan. 9 tribute to his friend on the Apex BASE Facebook page, Shoebotham wrote: “I wish I could find more fitting words to describe the magical person Jimmy was. So kind, sincere, loving, exciting, fun, funny, embracing, full of life, and full of love doesn’t even start to explain. No words that I have can convey how beautiful he was.”
According to reports, on Jan. 7, Pouchert launched from a site on a mesa above the Colorado River known as “Super Gorgeous,” so named for its beautiful view of Castle Valley and the Colorado River. A satellite messaging device he had on his person detected an impact, triggering the transmission of a signal requesting help. Pouchert’s companion, who remained at the top of the cliff, also activated a satellite messaging device requesting emergency assistance.
GCSAR responded with a boat and rescue equipment, meeting GCEMS at the Rocky Rapid boat ramp; Classic Air Medical also sent a helicopter. Pouchert was located on a steep talus slope about 1,000 feet below his jump point, and about 700 feet above the Colorado River. Helicopter medics were dropped off nearby and hiked to him, where they confirmed he was deceased. Several hours later a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter with hoist capabilities arrived to transport his body.
Wingsuit flying evolved in the late 1990s from skydiving and BASE jumping pursuits, and involves jumping from a high place—often a plane, tall cliff or piece of infrastructure—with a specialized suit that creates lift from fabric stretched between the legs and between the arms and body, allowing the jumper to glide laterally. The flight ends with the deployment of a parachute, similar to a BASE jump.
The scenery and access to jump points in and around Moab make it a destination for practitioners of these extreme sports, and a logical place to gather the BASE community for an annual fundraiser like the Turkey Boogie. Last month, GCSAR thanked the BASE jumping community for another donation that helps the organization pay for equipment and training.
Memorial details for Pouchert have not been made public at this time.