Southfield BASE jumper dies in TV news tower fall

Steve Pardo
The Detroit News

A Southfield man has died after his parachute failed to deploy while BASE jumping from a television news tower.

Police said Josh Sheppard, 31, was killed Wednesday evening from a fall from a 1,000-foot tower in Tompkins Township in Jackson County that is owned by WLAJ-TV. There was a fence he had to climb and "no trespassing" signs posted at the site, Michigan State Police Sgt. Kevin Caldwell said.

Around 5:30 p.m. a neighbor at the site saw Sheppard climbing the tower, thinking it was a utility worker, Caldwell said.

"It appears, based on preliminary investigation and witness statements, the deceased trespassed onto the property and climbed to the top of the tower and attempted a BASE jump," Michigan State Police said in a release. "The parachute failed to deploy."

BASE stands for building, antenna, span and earth.

Sheppard has videos on YouTube of himself skydiving. Messages of condolences poured in to his Facebook page Thursday as the news of his death spread.

Among the messages were "My heart goes out to friends and family members of Josh Sheppard," one read. "You now have the best wings any soul can have. Rage on wherever you are bro!," read another. And "Josh, you will be greatly missed. The world lost a good one."

Washington state resident Scott Meyer remembered Sheppard as "about the easiest person you ever met to be around."

Meyer was an event organizer last year at the Tri-City Water Follies — an annual hydroplane race and airshow in Washington where Sheppard performed. The daredevil jumped from a height of around 8,500 feet in a wing suit, delighting the crowd, Meyer said.

"It's a sad day," he said Thursday. "He was an extraordinary human being."

An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday evening, according to police.

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The Associated Press contributed.