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Volunteer Dies During Search for Missing Hiker

California man became separated from search partner on Mount Baldy
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2019 2:05 AM CST
Timothy Staples.   (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)

(Newser) – The search for a man who went missing on Mount Baldy a week ago has been suspended after the death of a volunteer. Timothy Staples, 32, was one of 126 people in 23 teams searching the California mountain on Saturday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a Facebook post. The sheriff's department says that after Staples became separated from his search partner, a helicopter found him unresponsive in "an area of ice and snow," NBC reports. Authorities say Staples, a recently married high school social studies and English teacher, was a 9-year veteran of the volunteer search team. He is believed to have fallen down an ice chute.

"He was an extremely dedicated volunteer, loved the opportunity to participate in search and rescue and really loved what he did," says Sgt. Jeff Allison. Staples had been searching for Sreenivas "Sree" Mokkapati, a 52-year-old Irvine resident who went missing on Mount Baldy on Dec. 8 after becoming separated from the three other people in his group. His son, Shavran Mokkapati, attended a memorial vigil for Staples on Sunday evening and said he never expected the search for his father to result in tragedy, CBS Los Angeles reports. "I'm very sorry for this, and very sorry for the family," he said. Michelle Walsh, another search volunteer, said they didn't want Mokkapati's family to feel guilty. "This is what we do," she said. (Read more search and rescue stories.)

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