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Drug arrest follows tragedy

Friends say adventurer was grieving loss of friends

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By Scott North
Herald Writer
The man charged in what is believed to be Snohomish County's largest cocaine bust has spent much of the past three years in an apparent emotional free fall - publicly grieving the deaths of friends, reportedly losing a fortune, and now, potentially, his freedom.
Douglas Bryan Spink, 33, remained jailed Thursday in the federal detention center in SeaTac, charged with possessing 372 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $34 million.
Spink is accused of being caught with the drugs during a traffic stop Monday on U.S. 2 in Monroe. He is scheduled to appear Tuesday for a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Spink lives in Canada, where he had run a Chilliwack, B.C., farm that bred jumping horses. He moved there not long ago from Portland, Ore., where, starting in the late 1990s, he was well known for risky business ventures and a passion for extreme sports, especially parachuting from cliffs, bridges, tall buildings and radio towers.
Word of Spink's legal predicament spread quickly Thursday.
"He owes me $50,000, and he's burned a lot of people," said Mark Paul, a business consultant in Oregon who said he was among the many creditors who remained entangled in the legal morass left by the collapse and bankruptcy of Spink's businesses in 2002. 
The arrest created a buzz among people who know Spink through his pursuit of BASE jumps, an acronym that refers to hurling oneself from buildings, antennas, spans and earth formations. 
"I was shocked, but not entirely surprised," said Karin Sako, an expert parachutist and rock climber who lives in Southern California. She met Spink during 2001 through a former boyfriend, Dwain Weston, then one of the world's most accomplished BASE jumpers who worked as a computer consultant in Portland.
In numerous Internet postings, Spink described Weston as his best friend and "soul mate," the person who taught him how to jump from bridges and cliffs.
Weston died in October 2003 when he crashed into the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. He had jumped from a plane and was speeding through the air wearing a "wing suit," a garment he hoped would allow him to "buzz" the bridge.
Weston's death came a little more than a year after another one of the people Spink considered his jumping buddies, an Oregon forensic pathologist, died in a jumping accident in Switzerland.
"BASE has brought me together with truly the most amazing, beautiful, interesting, complex, frustrating, intellectual, spiritual, courageous, ridiculous, hare-brained, brilliant people in the world. It has then taken them from me, one after another," Spink wrote in an Internet forum three days after Weston's death.
He added: "If you join our sport, this will happen to you - it is wonderful, and it absolutely sucks." 
Spink also knows a great deal about rock climbing and mountain travel, and he used that knowledge in pursuit of jumps from backcountry locations, said Robin Heid, a longtime sky diver and journalist who was a pioneer of BASE jumping.
Heid had organized the event at which Weston died. He said it wasn't long before Spink posted Internet messages alleging that the mishap could have been prevented, and that Weston's death was a suicide, not an accident. That triggered a series of unpleasant exchanges between the two on various sky-diving bulletin boards.
Spink reacted angrily in July when somebody who didn't know Weston made a passing reference in an Internet posting. 
When someone also posting on the board asked why he was so angry and bitter, Spink said he had reasons. 
"Bitter? Yeah, well I'll be happy to hear your feedback on my mental state when you've walked in my shoes for a few miles," he wrote. 
"That is, take your best friend, have him commit suicide, know you could have prevented it, and stir. That's a start. Mix in a heap more fatalities, then stir with a whole box-full of knives in the back from 'friends' without integrity or respect. That's the appetizer. Then we'll get to the main course."
On Feb. 16, Spink posted a message on an Internet bulletin board for climbers detailing how he had jumped off a cliff near Winthrop to honor the memory of a Seattle-area BASE jumper who he said had committed suicide days before.
Spink is an intense man and his exposure to death seems to have sparked in him a "volatile search" for meaning, Sako said. 
"There were times he extended great compassion and caring and sensitivity to me," she said. "I've always, and still do, like that quality in him. I've also been on the other end of some not so compassionate, sensitive things."
Whatever happens next, Sako said she hopes Spink benefits from the experience.
"For better or worse, I do hope the best for him," she said. "I don't think anyone is a victim in life. We are certainly responsible for our own actions."
That's a reality BASE jumpers understand, she said. 
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or

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