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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Steven Winward, right, and Sheriff Jim Winder of the Unified Police Department hold a press conference discussing the death of UHP Trooper Aaron Beesley who fell to his death during a rescue on Mount Olympus on Saturday, June 30, 2012.
It has been many years since we have lost a trooper. A lot of our officers are taking it really hard. —Trooper Steven Winward

MURRAY — A 13-year veteran of the Utah Highway Patrol fell to his death from a cliff during a search and rescue operation Saturday, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said.

Aaron Beesley, 34, a Utah Highway Patrol tactical flight officer, was part of the crew conducting a search and rescue operation for two teenagers on the Mount Olympus Trail. The call came into United Police at 4:30 p.m. of stranded hikers on Mount Olympus.

The UHP helicopter was called in and was able to find the hikers and airlift them to safety. Beesley was left behind on the ground while the teens were airlifted.

When the helicopter returned, rescuers were unable to locate Trooper Beesley. He was later located at the bottom of a 90-foot cliff, unconscious on his back. It took 45 minutes for rescue crews on the ground to reach him, Winder said.

"It is with a great deal of sorrow that we are here tonight to announce this passing," Winder said in a press conference just before 11 p.m. Saturday. "This trooper died in the line of duty while engaged in a heroic effort, the rescue of two individuals."

No one witnessed the fall, but UPD officials said Beesley apparently was trying to retrieve his backpack, lost his footing and plunged to his death.

"He has given his all in an act of devotion," Winder said.

Trooper Steven Winward called Beesley's death "a big loss for our department."

"It has been many years since we have lost a trooper," Windward said. "A lot of our officers are taking it really hard."

Beesley was a resident of Box Elder County. He leaves behind a wife and three boys.

Twitter: @FinleyJY