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Utah man dies swinging from 110-foot-tall arch

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By The Associated Press
Monday, March 25, 2013, 6:03 p.m.
 

SALT LAKE CITY — A 22-year-old Utah man was killed trying to swing through the opening of a 110-foot-tall sandstone arch in a stunt made so popular on YouTube that state authorities recently banned the daredevil activity by commercial outfitters.

Kyle Lee Stocking of West Jordan left too much slack in the rope he was using, and it sent him crashing into the sandstone base of Corona Arch near Moab, Grand County sheriff's officials said. He died Sunday afternoon.

Viral videos have bolstered the activity, which involves swinging wildly from ropes through arch and canyon openings. One video titled “World's Largest Rope Swing” has racked up more than 17 million views on YouTube since it was posted in February.

“Pendulum” swinging is a relatively new form of recreation in Utah's canyon lands, which see plenty of injuries and deaths from rock climbing and BASE jumping, which involves leaping from a fixed object with a parachute. On March 13, another man, Zachery Taylor, was killed rappelling at Tear Drop Arch in Utah's Monument Valley.

It's part of the recreational “craziness” sweeping the Moab area, where the annual Jeep Safari week got started Saturday, another potentially dangerous activity that involves rock crawling in modified vehicles, said John Weisheit, of Living Rivers, a local environmental group.

“People aren't accepting nature for what it is. They have to put an element of excitement into it,” said Weisheit, a longtime rafting guide. “People see it on YouTube and then say, ‘That looks like fun.'” Stocking was with a group of five friends authorities didn't identify. His family in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan couldn't be reached Monday.

It wasn't immediately clear how Stocking or his friends miscalculated the distance for a wild swing through Corona Arch. Sheriff's Lt. Kim Neal said Stocking left too much rope loose when he clipped into his waist harness.

“A lot of people are doing it around here,” said Sean Hazell at Moab outfitter Western Spirit Cycling, who was planning to make his own jump from the top of Corona Arch. “I'm definitely going to think twice about it now.”

Corona Arch is on Utah state trust lands but is set to be turned over to a federal land-management agency as part of a larger trade of state and federal lands. Because of the accident, the Bureau of Land Management is “taking a closer look at appropriate ways to balance and manage these activities on public lands,” BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall said Monday.

The Utah Trust Lands Administration tried to curb Corona Arch's growing appeal by banning commercial jumping effective Jan. 1. But the agency said it can't prevent private parties from using its lands. The agency posted a trailhead warning about the potential for “severe injury or death even if your equipment works.”

Stocking's rope and harness didn't fail. His mistake was miscalculating the length of slack rope for the swing, Neal said.

“These people involved in extreme outdoor sports, I admire their courage, but I'm not going to do it,” Neal said.

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