Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Memorial services are scheduled this weekend for a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who fell to his death during the rescue of two teenage hikers near Salt Lake City.
Officials say investigators believe 34-year-old Aaron Beesley lost his footing while trying to retrieve a medical backpack that rolled over the edge during the rescue effort on Mount Olympus Saturday evening.
"It's a very sad day for law enforcement," said Lt. Justin Hoyal, a spokesman for the Unified Police Department, which was called in to investigate the trooper's death. "Our hearts go out to his family and to the law enforcement community."
Hoyal said the two teens were on their way back down the Mount Olympus trail when they veered off and found themselves in a steep area, where they got stuck.
They called authorities, and a search and rescue helicopter was called in to locate them.
The teens were spotted at 6:25 p.m. Saturday and loaded onto the helicopter.
Beesley, a 13-year veteran and technical flight officer with the Utah Highway Patrol's air unit, left the chopper to make room for the teens.
Hoyal said a preliminary investigation indicates there is a slight decline immediately next to the cliff where Beesley stood and that his equipment bag started to roll down it. Officials say he apparently tried to grab it.
When searchers returned, they rappelled down to Beesley and found him dead. He was airlifted off the mountain that night. The teens had been airlifted to safety and were uninjured.
Beesley's family gathered Sunday at the Utah Highway Patrol Office in Farmington, Utah, to talk about the officer.
"The world lost a brilliant young man," his mother, Laretta Beesley, said at the press conference.
Family members described Beesley as a real-life Tom Sawyer as a child, with power to persuade others to do chores such as stacking firewood and believe it was fun.
He later served a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Oakland, Calif., and was offered a full-ride scholarship by other Mormons serving in the mission home because of his knowledge. He chose instead to join the Utah Highway Patrol.
"For him to fall when he was just getting a bag makes me know it was his time to go. . I'm thankful that when he died, he died helping someone else," his mother told KTVX-TV. "I'm thankful it was not a shooting or a car crash."
Beesley's family said he saved multiple lives without any media attention. His brother said Beesley performed CPR on a boy pulled from a bay, and gave first aid to a woman found by air in Moab.
Beesley also was described as a technical genius. As a middle school student he was called to the office to fix computers. He also has created several apps to help other troopers and his family with various tasks.
He leaves behind a wife, 7-year-old son, and 4-year-old twins.
Funeral services are set for Saturday in Layton, Utah. Details are still being arranged.
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