BEAR RIVER CITY, Box Elder County — As a volunteer firefighter with the Corinne Fire Department, a 13-year veteran of the Utah Highway Patrol and a state helicopter search and rescue responder, Aaron Beesley always seemed to be in the right place to help people.
That’s what he was doing on June 30 when he died. He was 34 years old.
“I still have days where it doesn't seem real,” said Kristie Beesley, Aaron’s wife.
On Wednesday, Aaron Beesley will be awarded with a Red Cross Heroes Community Award for his work during his last mission.
"He loved what he did, and what better way to go than loving what you do," she said.
Her husband's last mission was to help two stranded hikers on Mount Olympus in Salt Lake County. When it was determined the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was needed for the rescue, Aaron Beesley answered the call.
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.
After Beesley helped them get onto the helicopter, they took off while Beesley stayed behind to collect his gear. When the helicopter came back for him, he wasn’t there. Investigators say he slipped and fell approximately 60 feet to his death.
"It was always in the back of your mind, especially as a spouse, that this could happen” Kristie Beesley said. “You just always have that in the back of your mind."
All of a sudden, she was a widow, left to raise 5-year-old twins Derek and Preston, and their 8-year-old son Austin.
“I know there are a lot of people around that love my kids. I'm not scared, but maybe worried about their future," she said.
She knows one day her children will ask about their dad. That's why she hangs pictures of their family in their house. She’s also making blankets for her boys using their dad’s uniforms and patches for material.
“When Dad is not around, they forget what Dad was like,” she said.
She’s also making scrapbooks — a different one for each child full of pictures of them with their father.
Later this year, Aaron Beesley will have his name placed in a memorial at the state Capitol and in Washington D.C.
The awards are nice, but Kristie Beesley just wishes he was here to see his children grow up.
"They'll say, ‘I miss Dad.’ And I'll say, ‘I miss him, too.’ But we'll get to see him again. And that eases their mind."
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc