Remembering Holly Joan Brittsan

Holly BASE jumping from a bridge
Holly BASE jumping from a bridge

Last week, I learned the sad news that Holly Joan Brittsan, the first regular contributor here at Medellin Living, died as the result of a BASE jumping accident in Utah.

She was just 24 years old.

In mid-2009, as I was getting ready to leave Medellin for the USA, I made an open call for volunteer contributors, and Holly responded with great enthusiasm.

She already had plans to move down to Medellin, and we’d just miss meeting each other in person. It’d be her first time living outside the United States.

When I asked her to tell readers about herself, she wrote:

I graduated in May 2008 with a BS in Music Management.

I am a dancer, which means I’m always finding the most exciting nightlife.  My dance training is 20 years of classical ballet, with cross training in Tap and Jazz.

I actually don’t have much training in any ballroom type dances, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go to a South American country.

I’m a base jumper, and always looking for a good way to play with parachutes or get some adrenaline going.  I’m currently a music manager for some local bands, and I’m always looking for the best local music.

She was also fond of horseback riding, and was particularly impressed with the horses she found in Medellin.

Holly was not a novice when it came to skydiving and BASE jumping.

According to this profile, her first skydive was June 5, 2005 followed soon after by her first BASE jump July 16, 2005.

Her jump numbers list 195 skydives and 64 BASE jumps, but there’s no sign of when the site was last updated, so I have a feeling the numbers are actually higher.

She once wrote about the time she went BASE jumping in Medellin. It required climbing 24 flights of stairs up a building still under construction.

Here’s an excerpt:

I took two steps and launched myself from the building.  I waited a half a second, and then threw the pilot chute that would open my parachute.  As I waited for the rig to open, I stared at the ground rushing up at me.  I kept everything in position and kept solid.  The parachute opened with a crack, and I immediately turned into my landing pattern.  There wasn’t time to do anything else.

Two quick turns, and I was landing in front of Mario.  The police were a few feet away in the street, amazed.  I landed, waved at the police, and started putting my things away.  One officer came and took a picture of me.  I looked up to see the security guards on the parking level, obviously talking about the jump.

We quickly discussed where to wait for HP, but we looked over and saw him climbing down the ladder.  We piled in the car and went to have a nice 6:30AM breakfast on a beautiful Sunday morning. (Read the full version here)

Holly was well aware of the risks involved in her chosen sport, yet it didn’t make hearing about the deaths of her friends and peers any easier.

She wrote an especially poignant post about this reality in September 2009 after learning of several deaths within a short period of time.

On the practical side, she wrote about safety in Medellin and her Visa run to Venezuela.

She also tapped into the alternative stuff in Medellin I’d not explored, such as getting a tattoo at Envigado Ink.

Her most popular post in terms of readers (even now) is A Woman’s Guide to the Medellin Look.

By March 2009, after eight months of living in Medellin, she decided to take a job coaching gymnastics back in Utah.

I remember she was really excited about the opportunity to go back to the States and do something she loved.

My deepest condolences go out to Holly’s family and friends.

If you knew Holly, please share your thoughts of her in the comments below.

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  1. How sad to hear that! 🙁

    I know how it feels since I lost a friend who did base jumping and urbex and died doing what he loved. it feels weird cause, although I never personally met her, I loved what she used to write here and enjoyed all her adventures in Medellín.

    It’s really sad someone as young, pretty, full of life just die like that :/

    It feels really sad….

    Just Rest In Peace and fly high!

    • I feel the same way Cristian. I never got to meet her in person, as she left Colombia before I got back, but I felt like I did get to know her through her writing.

  2. This is such sad news. Holly was over at my place once in Medellin with a group of friends. Quite an unforgettable person. She told me I had some terrible music playing and found her forwardness quite charming. We then went to the club El Libido which had black lights, heavy metal music, and skulls painted on the walls. I thought it was terrible and left after five minutes. The next time I ran into Holly she asked why I left so early and she said she had the time of her life. That was Holly, a true original living life the way she saw it, setting her own rules and following her own gusto. It was a pleasure to have known her.

  3. Thank you so much for your wonderful accounts of Holly. This is the first time since she has gone on that i have looked up any writings about her. This is an awesome thing that you have done here…we appreciate it so much and i am printing this out so i can put it! In her book. It’s been year now and we still miss her so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely, linda, holly’s mom.

    • Hi Linda, I’m glad you found the blog post. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write, but I wanted to do something to remember her publicly, even though we never had the chance to meet in person.

      • Thank you Dave. We cherish your words . Today would have been Holly’s 26th birthday. We miss her so much. Thanks again for your story, that will be with us forever.