A member of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team died Saturday while searching for missing hiker Sree Mokkapati on Mount Baldy.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a tweet at 5:02 p.m. that a rescue team member was separated from his partner and found unresponsive after an air search. They have identified him as Timothy Staples, 32, a volunteer for the West Valley Search and Rescue Team.
“He was an extremely dedicated volunteer, loved the opportunity to participate in search and rescue and really loved what he did,” Sgt. Jeff Allison of the Sheriff’s Department said.
Around 1 p.m., Staples’ partner radioed for help on the mountain. Staples is presumed to have fallen down an ice chute, and once a medic was lowered to him, was found dead on the ice and snow, according to officials.
Search operations for Mokkapati have been suspended and crews have been recalled from the mountain. The Sheriff’s department with determine Sunday if and when rescue efforts will resume.
Staples was a 9-year veteran of the search and rescue team, highly skilled and was one of 126 people working in 23 teams searching large sections of the mountain for Mokkapati, the Sheriff’s department said.
He was a beloved track and field coach at Damien High School in La Verne, where he also taught Social Science and English, according to the high school.
In a statement from Damien High School, Staples was described as newly married and a 2006 graduate of the high school. They are planning to host a prayer service on Monday, Dec. 16.