Squaw man found dead after illegal Yosemite BASE jump
The body of Frank P. Gambalie III, the Squaw Valley resident who eluded park rangers after BASE jumping off El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, was found on Wednesday, July 7. He was 28.
Gambalie was an experienced BASE jumper, which stands for Building Antennae Span Earth who had over 600 unscathed BASE jumps to his credit and was considered one of the best jumpers in the world.
Dropping river levels on the Merced River allowed an increase in search efforts and actual entry into the river. After deploying a crew of 10 on the morning of July 7 with the assistance of a catamaran raft, search members found the victim at 5:50 p.m.
The submerged body was 300 yards down river from the point Gambalie was last seen by rangers in his attempt to cross the river and avoid arrest, just east of Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley.
There was identification on the body and Gambalie’s father, Frank Gambalie Jr., who was in Yosemite National Park, also identified the deceased.
“This was an unfortunate end to this incident. It didn’t have to happen,” Yosemite Park Ranger Kendell Thompson said.
“His death was senseless,” said Adam Filippino, a friend of Gambalie’s and president of Consolidated Rigging, a manufacturer of BASE jumping equipment. “Frank’s virtues shined through. He was intelligent, personable and attentive and he was respected and well-known. I hope he goes down as a martyr regardless of the circumstances.”
BASE jumpers and the National Park Service have long been at odds over the safety of BASE jumping. BASE jumping is currently a federal statute Class B misdemeanor in the national parks, something that enrages many jumpers.
“The penalty doesn’t fit the crime,” said Donna Reid, a Tahoe City resident who is also a BASE jumper and was a friend of Gambalie’s. BASE jumping is currently illegal according to park service laws.
The misdemeanor carries a $5,000 maximum fine along with possible arrest, a possible probation period of three years and confiscation of equipment.
And according to Thompson, at the moment, the future of BASE jumping in Yosemite looks bleak.
“The NPS policy is not likely to change. BASE jumping is not a good idea here. There are penalties. It’s a high-risk activity and it’s not encouraged at all.”
However, Filippino is working for access to Yosemite for BASE jumpers through the Cliff Jumpers Association of America, an advocacy group he helped found in 1993 to support proper education for BASE jumpers and for access to park cliffs, like the ones in Yosemite.
Funeral services for Frank P. Gambalie III will be tomorrow at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, located at 3351 Contra Loma Blvd., Antioch, Calif.
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