Extreme athlete Dean Potter, renowned for his bold climbs and BASE jumps, was one of two men killed while attempting a wingsuit flight in Yosemite National Park.
Someone called for help late on Saturday after losing contact with Potter, 43, and his climbing partner, Graham Hunt, 29. They had jumped from a 7,500ft promontory called Taft Point, park ranger Scott Gediman said.
He said a search-and-rescue team looked for the men overnight but could not find them. On Sunday morning, a helicopter crew spotted their bodies in Yosemite Valley. No parachutes had been deployed.
BASE jumping is an acronym for fixed objects in which someone can parachute from: building, antenna, span, and Earth (such as a cliff).
The sport is illegal in all national parks, and it was possible the men jumped at dusk or at night to avoid being caught by rangers.
Potter and Hunt, who lived near Yosemite, were prominent figures in the park’s climbing community, Mr Gediman said.
“This is a horrible incident, and our deepest sympathies go out to their friends and family,” he said. “This is a huge loss for all of us.”
Potter was famous for pushing the boundaries of climbing by going up some of the world’s most daunting big walls and cliffs alone, using his bare hands and without ropes.
He took the sport to an extreme level with highlining – walking across a rope suspended between towering rock formations while wearing a parachute for safety in the event of a fall.
He also drew criticism in May 2006 after he made a “free solo” climb of Utah’s Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.