Enthusiasts of an extreme sport are mourning the loss of Squamish resident Jeff Bertoia after a speed flying accident on Saturday (Sept. 7).
Bertoia, 36, headed up the east side of the Stawamus Chief with two friends, Squamish RCMP Sgt. Wayne Pride said on Monday (Sept. 9). He was the first one to jump off the back side of the monolith. Police received a 911 call at approximately 4:30 p.m.
“[Bertoia] was not a novice,” Pride said, and noted officers interviewed witness for an ongoing investigation into what went wrong. “This is a fairly popular activity off the mountain.”
Speed flying is markedly different from paragliding, said Matt Jesson, West Coast Soaring Club president. The fabric wing is smaller than those typically used in paragliding. As a result, the devices are faster than paragliders and can't catch thermal lifts, he noted.
One of the main differences is that speed flying is meant to be close to the terrain, Jesson said.
“It has been around for a while. It is a growing sport, just like paragliding is a growing sport,” he said, noting the demographic in speed flying tends to be younger.
A helicopter was brought in to aid in Bertoia's recovery, Pride said, adding that Bertoia's body was found in a remote location on the east side of the Chief.
Bertoia worked as an environmental stewardship guide with Kingfisher Heliskiing. A guide biography states that Bertoia was born in the south Okanagan before travelling to Vancouver Island, the Kootenays and Rockies.
Please see this week's edition of The Chief for updates on this developing story.