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Tributes offered to rescue worker who died in Mt. Baldy fall while seeking missing hiker

Tim Staples.JPG
Tim Staples
(West Valley Search and Rescue)

Tributes continued to pour in Sunday for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department search and rescue team volunteer who died on the treacherous slopes of Mt. Baldy while taking part in a massive search for a missing hiker.

Tim Staples, 32, a social science and English teacher at Damien High School in La Verne, was found dead Saturday in the ice and snow after becoming separated from his search partner, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

“Hugs and prayers for our SAR volunteers and Tim’s family,” was one of more than 100 comments posted on the Sheriff’s Department’s announcement of the accident on Twitter. “I know how valuable and dedicated these volunteers are. They are our quiet heroes who have dedicated their service to help others.”

“Thank you Timothy,” wrote Karl Hegel, whose post identified him as a 30-year member of the search and rescue community. “I have witnessed heroism at levels most will never know. These unpaid professionals are some of the most highly train[ed] dedicated and skilled people I have ever had the privilege to work along side.”

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A notice posted on the Damien High School website said a prayer service will be held Monday for the recently married faculty member who was also a 2006 graduate of the Catholic high school.

Staples’ Facebook page said he lived in Upland and was married in June to Katie Lee Staples.

“As a faculty member in social science and English, he was a favorite teacher among his students,” the school statement said. “This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school family, especially our students. Our school will have a crisis intervention team of clergy and professionals trained to help with the needs of students, parents, and school personnel.”

Staples was part of a 126-member volunteer force drawn from 11 counties participating in the search for Sreenivas “Sree” Mokkapati, who had been missing for nearly one week. After Staples’ death all crew members were recalled and search operations for the missing hiker were suspended.

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A spokeswoman for the department said Sunday that the circumstances of Staples’ death are still being investigated.

In announcing Staples’ death Saturday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said the nine-year veteran of the department’s West Valley Search & Rescue Team was found by a helicopter in what he described as an ice chute.

“An air search located the team member unresponsive on ice and snow,” the department said. “A medic was lowered to the SAR member and discovered him deceased.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, and we make sure we do everything in our power to help them through this process, as well as the rest of our volunteers,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said.

Other search and rescue members spoke of Staples with reverence.

“As a fellow SAR Operator this hits close to home,” wrote Todd Stewart on the Sheriff’s Department Twitter page. “Rest well my brother. You gave your life #SoOthersMayLive. I didn’t know you but I will honor your life and service.”

“Our search and rescue volunteers, as well as those from throughout the entire state, give of themselves and their time selflessly to try to rescue folks that become lost, and today is an example of what they’re willing to give to try to help save some of the citizens who, unfortunately, get lost or get hurt in some of the most dangerous parts of our state.”

The West Valley Search & Rescue Team established a GoFundMe page in Staples’ honor.


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