Bothell woman dies in mountain plunge when chute fails

INDEX — A 32-year-old Bothell woman died Sunday after her parachute failed to open properly during a jump off Mount Baring in east Snohomish County, officials said.

Aude-Marianne Bertucchi was involved in a sport called BASE jumping. BASE stands for buildings, antennae, spans (bridges) and earth. She was with her husband when the accident occurred, officials said.

Elaine Harvey, a spokeswoman for the Harvey Field-based Skydive Snohomish, said Bertucchi also was a licensed skydiver.

“Skydive Snohomish is not affiliated with BASE jumping,” Harvey said. “They are two completely different sports.”

Harvey described the woman as “a skilled skydiver” who was “a well-liked member of the community, a very adventurous person.”

Friends said Bertucchi was bright, fluent in several languages and knew the risks of the sport she loved. Bertucchi had been skydiving at Harvey Field the day before her death, they said.

It’s unclear exactly what went wrong on Sunday.

“The chute failed to deploy,” said chief Kevin Prentiss of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. “She fell 800 feet to her death.”

An acquaintance wrote on a forum for a website used by BASE jumpers that he was in contact with one of the two witnesses to the mishap.

The friend wrote: “Her exit was observed to be a clean launch, after which time her descent was obstructed from view. The jumpers explained that they were able to hear her canopy open after 4 seconds, but that she failed to fly out into full view. The two jumpers with her waited a few seconds longer to determine if they could hear anything or spot her canopy emerge.”

Mount Baring is a popular area for BASE jumpers.

“I have been told it is one of the better areas in the United States,” said John Robinson, a wilderness specialist for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest ranger station in Skykomish.

Snohomish County Search and Rescue airlifted the body to Snohomish. It was then turned over to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The sheriff’s office received a report of the accident early Sunday afternoon. Friends described Bertucchi as an avid skydiver who also enjoyed BASE jumping. She worked for an Everett-based aviation engineering consultant.

The Snohomish Medical Examiner’s Office said she died of “multiple blunt force injuries.”

Mount Baring stands 6,125 feet high. It is northeast of the Skykomish River and U.S. 2 on the western edge of the Cascade Range, about six miles east of Mount Index.

BASE jumpers off Mount Baring typically land near Barclay Lake, which is located beneath the mountain’s towering north wall. A well-traveled climber’s trail leads up the mountain above the cliffs.

There are no laws against BASE jumping from Mount Baring, Robinson said.

“The only restriction we would have is if it was in the wilderness,” Robinson said. “They are not landing in the wilderness. We don’t have any regulation to restrict that use.”

It wasn’t the first time someone died BASE jumping from Mount Baring.

In July 2004, rescuers recovered the body of another jumper who fell 1,000 feet off Mount Baring when his parachute failed to open.

Blincmagazine.com, an online website for BASE jumpers, lists 153 deaths worldwide from failed jumps since 1981. Of that total, 45 were from the United States.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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