Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


"The last time I saw Dave alive he was relaxed and smiling, sat in the sun. His intention was to gear up and jump after watching our flight."
"A rescue helicopter -- located Dave's body and confirmed he had died from massive injuries resulting from impacting rocks at high speed. Death is believed to have been instantaneous."
"Sitting around our campfire the night before Dave's death he could not have been happier. He talked about his life, his work, and the day's jumping with equal enthusiasm. It is my belief that he loved where he was in life."
Ralph Greenaway, base jumper

David Stather, who lived and worked in Calgary as a pulmonary specialist, died Friday BASE jumping near the Grand Canyon.
David Stather, who lived and worked in Calgary as a pulmonary specialist, died Friday BASE jumping near the Grand Canyon. (Ralph Greenaway/ 
"He pushed himself a lot at work. And, I think, recreationally to do some of these extreme things. 
"I think, maybe it was always in the back of our minds a little, [the base jumping] but he always struck us as someone who was very cautious. I know that's paradoxical given what he was doing, but he always said that nobody packs his chute but him. And I got the sense that he was very cautious and very experienced."
Dr. Paul MacEachern, Calgary
Dr. David Stather
Dr. David Stather, 41, worked in Calgary as a pulmonologist. (University of Calgary)

Work, as it happens, was at the faculty of medicine, University of Calgary. Dr. David Stather was considered to be a pioneering doctor as a respirologist who had received a number of awards and fellowships. He was a clinical assistant professor specializing in the study of lung diseases, and very adept at broncoscopy, use of a minuscule camera on a long tube, meant to perform internal examinations of the human lung.

"It took him over ten years to get the training needed to do that job, so he's not someone who can be easily replaced. He went at things full tilt, just like his hobbies", said Dr. MacEachern of his colleague. Dr. Stather was engaged for an increase in use of medical simulators in the field of teaching new physicians how to diagnose lung diseases. And he was in the process of pioneering new methods of treatment for a rare condition where a ball of fungus forms in diseased lungs.

No one, it appears, in deference to the preferred values and priorities of the dead man, and focused on honouring his life while obviously regretting his death at such a young age, offered the opinion that his death seemed rather senseless, a complete and total waste. At the very least he was unmarried, had no children, but his promise in his chosen medical field has certainly been cut short.

He would occasionally entertain his medical colleagues showing them skydiving videos featuring himself. He never admitted to them that he was also a seasoned base jumper, an activity that only the most blase would not acknowledge to represent high risk. Base jumpers typically leap off cliffs, mountains or towers, learning through experience the split-second decision when to trigger their parachutes. It is considered a sport, but one that is illegal in most countries.

Dr. Stather, the gregarious thrill-seeker and medical professional, leaped to his death last Friday. He and some buddies had surreptitiously driven deep into Navajo territory near the Grand Canyon. The Navajo are not fond of thrill seekers courting death. They demand permits from anyone thinking of crossing into Navajo nation territory. Base jumping, moreover, is explicitly forbidden on its territory according to their website.

"It's so remote that you can't keep track of who is going in and out of there. It's a one-hour drive on dirt roads to the edge of this canyon from [the nearest] highway. There's no way to keep track of who is going in and out of those areas", explained Detective Pat Barr of the Coconino County Sheriff's Office. Adding that a Norwegian man leaped to his death about a year earlier, at the very same spot.

On this thrilling trip for these dedicated base jumpers Dr. Stather had already exercised his franchise to taunt death by leaping into a 4,000-foot canyon, gliding in his wingsuit before deciding to pull the cord on his chute. It was his third jump that proved to be his very last. He was in the process of following his two friends who had already made the leap, to the bottom of the canyon.

His two friends waited for him to jump and join them. But he never did arrive. And it was later that they saw his bright wingsuit encasing his shattered body on a ledge overlooking the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado Rivers, about 25 km east of the Grand Canyon Village. Darren Strocher who teaches skydiving near Calgary said only about a dozen base jumpers are located in Alberta.

"For the most part, nobody wants to teach anybody because it's dangerous", he said. A classic understatement.

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