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Man killed in Mount St. Helena parachute jump

Authorities said a 35-year-old Napa County man was killed Sunday afternoon after he apparently parachuted off Mount St. Helena and crashed.

Walden Grindle traveled the world in pursuit of his love of BASE jumping and since 2002 was manager of geographical information systems at Jack Neal & Son Vineyard Management.

Authorities Sunday said it was unclear what the St. Helena man, who recently was married, was doing prior to his death, other than he apparently hiked up a fire trail to the top of the mountain, where he jumped with some type of parachute.

The Napa County Sheriff's Office, which initially reported it as a paragliding accident, later said Grindle was found with a “speed parachute.”

Grindle called someone on a cellphone after he apparently crashed to report that he was injured and that he had possibly broken his hip, Sheriff's Sgt. Doug Pace said.

He said Grindle also activated an emergency beacon that notified the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, which in turn contacted sheriff's emergency dispatch at about 12:40 p.m.

Grindle was found at about 1:10 p.m. A crew member aboard the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office helicopter was sent down on a long line to help the injured man, but he already was dead.

Mark Neal, president of Jack Neal & Son, Sunday praised Grindle as an outstanding employee. “You asked for it and it was done,” he said.

Grindle earned dual degrees from the University of California at Davis in electrical and computer engineering, according to the company's website. His Linkedin profile stated that he also was president of the university's Ski or Snowboard Club.

Neal said Grindle was an avid thrill-seeker who spanned the globe pursuing his love of BASE jumping, which entails leaping from fixed objects while using a parachute to break the fall. The acronym stands for “Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth.”

A 2009 YouTube video appears to show Grindle doing a back flip off a bridge in Idaho, his parachute deploying just in time for landing. He dubbed the maneuver “Walden's Awesome Reverse Deployment.”

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