SALT LAKE CITY — Two men took off in a vehicle after BASE jumping from the top of the LDS Church Office Building Friday afternoon.
Police and Church security are looking for two men who carried noticeably large backpacks onto the elevator of the building within a relatively close time period to the alleged jumps around 3:42 p.m., according to Salt Lake City police Lt. Melody Gray. She said officers didn't make it to the scene before the jumpers had sped off in a vehicle that is believed to be a silver SUV.
The two reportedly jumped 420 feet from the 26th-floor observation deck of the 28-story building, located at 50 E. North Temple. Witnesses told police the two jumpers were trailed by two parachutes and executed a smooth landing across about six lanes of traffic, in a parking lot across the street.
Annie Beer, who works at the office building, was walking back from training at a different location and heard a loud noise overhead, caused by fabric whipping in the wind.
"I looked up and saw two guys falling from the roof and thought they were going to land in the street and get hit by a car," she said, adding that it was quite a sight.
Beer said she wasn't worried it could have been a suicide attempt because the jumpers were equipped with parachutes and recreation gear.
"It must have been on their bucket list or something," she said.
BASE is an acronym that stands for buildings, antennae, spans (bridges) and earth (cliffs), and jumping from such locations is believed by thrill-seekers to be the ultimate extreme sport. However, it is also one of the more dangerous thrills to seek, according to death statistics related to the sport.
If the two men are caught, Gray said it is up to LDS Church Security detail as to whether charges are pressed, which could include disorderly conduct or trespassing. Her real concern isn't the jumpers but the public safety issue caused by their jump.
"It's not only about how dangerous it is to them, but to the people driving on the street," she said. "You see them parachuting out of the sky and you don't know where they're going to land or how much control they have over themselves."
Friday's descent was not the first of note from the top of the office building, or in downtown Salt Lake City for that matter. In 1995, two men who had hidden their parachutes underneath some sweatshirts, climbed the fence on the observation deck of the LDS Church Office Building, ditched their sweatshirts and bailed off the roof. One of the men was arrested thereafter.
A few months later, that same man and another jumped off the 26-story Beneficial Life Tower, now the Key Bank Building, on State Street. They were both found on the ground, carrying parachutes.
In June 2003, two men leaped off the top of the Boston Building in Exchange Place, and a month after that, another set of jumpers successfully floated from the top of the American Towers building.
Police often rely on eyewitnesses for details that lead to finding sporadic jumpers, just as witnesses were the first to see the men involved in Friday's jump and to report the getaway car and other details. Anyone who has information about Friday's jump is asked to call Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000.