South Surrey man's free spirit remembered
When searchers told Tara Trompetter they’d found her son’s body in the depths of Anderson Lake, she knew she had to see him.
She had to know how – how did Ben die cliff-jumping, doing something he’d done so many times? And, did he die painfully?
Words from the divers who found the 27-year-old Sunday brought some comfort.
“They said, ‘your son was the most peaceful we’ve ever pulled up,’” Tara said. “I got to go and hold him and touch him and kiss his face. He had a smile.”
The expression, say friends and family who gathered at Tara’s South Surrey home Wednesday, was a familiar one to all who knew the Peninsula man. It appeared often, and touched many who had the good fortune to meet him in many corners of the world.
“His smile is like nothing (else) – it was beautiful,” Tara said.
Ben died Friday, after jumping from a cliff northeast of Pemberton into the icy waters of Anderson Lake. He had been enjoying the lake with friends – planning to head to Whistler later to watch his cousin compete in the slope-style mountain-biking competition, Crankworx – when he decided to free-climb the cliff face.
The activity is one he had participated in many times before, and skillfully, friends say.
But this time, he didn’t resurface.
“I’ve climbed with Ben so many times,” said Melissa Jol, who became friends with Ben after the pair were hired as guides for the outdoor adventure-tour company, Beach Travellers.
“He was my teacher. I just don’t want the public to think he was being an idiot.”
Ben’s friends and family say they were devastated by information that authorities released regarding the tragedy, in particular a claim that Ben had jumped from a height of 175 feet. Searchers told the family at the scene that the actual height was 90-95 feet.
The higher estimate “just doesn’t reflect the judgment of my brother,” said Tyler Trompetter, 25.
UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Whistler Pemberton RCMP announced analysis indicated he jumped from a height of 100-130 feet, noting, "Our thoughts are with Ben's family during this difficult time."
Searchers also told the family that it wasn’t the jump itself that killed Ben, but the glacial temperature of the water he leaped into. Having spent much time over the past four years as a guide in Thailand – where he became serious about free-climbing – Ben was accustomed to more tropical climes. The cold water likely sent his body into shock, the searchers said.
“He knew what he was doing,” said his dad, Alan Trompetter.
Ben’s dad was among those who searched extensively for the young man over the weekend, diving into the lake’s chilly depths over and over in the hopes of finding him.
“He just wanted to bring him home,” Tara said.
Alan said he had often “ripped” his son for free-climbing, telling him he was tempting fate because of the risk.
“I guess he tempted fate too much.”
Ben’s body was found around 11 a.m. Sunday in about 70 feet of water.
Tonight (Aug. 23), Ben’s former Bayside Rugby teammates will toast their friend.
A service is planned for Thursday, Aug. 30, at Peace Portal Alliance Church, 15128 27B Ave. at 3 p.m. Hundreds of people are expected to attend.
The family plans to spread some of Ben's ashes at Anderson Lake and to take some to Thailand, for the ‘family’ he had there, as Ben’s time there changed his life.
As a guide, Ben would introduce those who came to the country – including his mom, Tyler and younger sister, Meghan – to its charms and people; to the place he fell in love with. Along the way, he found a passion for fire-spinning and shared his free spirit with children he met through work in area orphanages. The Beach Travellers’ teams would bring school supplies and rain gear to the various facilities and always took time to interact and play with the kids who called them home.
For Ben, it was important that the children knew they mattered.
His mom recalled one story Ben told her about going to play soccer with some of the kids. When he arrived at the orphanage, he was asked to pick a few of the kids to come out and play with him, but Ben refused, insisting that all of the children be allowed to join in.
He simply couldn't bear to see any of them left out.
"That was Ben. He knew what it was like to be the underdog," Tara said. "He always wanted each kid to feel special."
Earlier this summer, Ben made the heart-wrenching decision to give up tour-guiding, and go back to school. He arrived back in B.C. on July 30.
By all accounts, Ben was never one to let fear stop him.
“He knew the risks,” his mom said, of her son’s choice to free-climb. “I’m not mad at him, I can’t be. We knew he was like a rhino. I knew I had to let him go and live the life that he had lived.”
“Ben always did what Ben wanted to do.”