Fallen trooper spent his life serving others, family says

Published: Sunday, July 1 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Trooper Arik Beesley stands with his wife Juli, Sunday, July 1, 2012 at the Utah Highway Patrol office in Farmington. His brother, UHP trooper Aaron Beesley, died Saturday during a rescue of two lost hikers on Mount Olympus.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

FARMINGTON — Arik Beesley was expecting a call Saturday night from his older brother and Utah Department of Public Safety colleague.

It was common for trooper Aaron Beesley to call after returning from a mission like the one that afternoon when a pair of teenage hikers were stranded on Mount Olympus.

"Last night, I got the wrong phone call," Arik Beesley said.

Like so many times before, Aaron Beesley put his life on the line to assist those in life-threatening situations. That part the mission was a success; both hikers made it home safely.

Beesley did not.

The 13-year veteran of the Utah Highway Patrol was killed during that search-and-rescue operation after apparently losing his footing and falling approximately 60 feet.

Beesley, of Bear River, was 34. He leaves behind a wife, Kristie, and three sons, Austin, 7, and Derek and Preston, 4-year-old twins.

"Every day of his life was spent serving people," Arik Beesley said Sunday. "There have been many calls Aaron has responded to, many lives Aaron's saved."

Arik Beesley joined family and law enforcement colleagues at the Utah Highway Patrol's Farmington office for a news conference Sunday afternoon.

DPS Commissioner Lance Davenport called Aaron Beesley "a wonderful public servant, husband, father, son and brother."

"I want his family and the citizens of this great state to know what a great loss this is for us and what a wonderful and devoted public servant he was," Davenport said. "He served his time with honor and distinction, right up to the last minute of his life."

About 4:30 p.m., Salt Lake County search and rescue crews responded to a call about two teenage hikers stranded on the Mount Olympus. When it was determined the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was needed for the rescue, Aaron Beesley answered the call.

Beesley was aboard the helicopter as the technical flight officer, assisting pilot Shane Oldfield in the search, said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Fuhr.

"Aaron's primary responsibility was to find those individuals," Fuhr said. "The pilot navigates the helicopter."

Beesley located the two hikers — a young man and a young woman — but was not able to determine from the air if they needed medical attention. He grabbed the medical bag, found a place to offload it and threw it in the area of the hikers.

Oldfield then had to find a place where Beesley could do a skid offload, which, Fuhr explained, involves the helicopter placing its skids up to a rock, allowing a rescuer to climb out when there's not a good place to land.

"(Beesley) secured the two individuals who were lost, made sure they were medically sound, and then one by one loaded them into the helicopter," Fuhr said.

Oldfield flew the young woman down the mountain first, then returned for the young man. The plan was for Oldfield to fly the teen to safety while Beesley retrieved the medical bag.

"Aaron told Shane, 'I'm going to grab that bag. Come back and pick me up,'" Fuhr said.

Oldfield returned to retrieve Beesley, but the trooper wasn't there.

"Nobody knows what happened, but we believe that when he went to go secure that bag, he lost his footing and fell down the ravine," Fuhr said.

Salt Lake County crews involved in the rescue of the hikers then searched the area for the trooper and spotted his body approximately 60 feet below the landing site, Sheriff Jim Winder said.

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