Family, friends remember SoCal search and rescue volunteer who died on duty on Mount Baldy

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (KABC) -- An emotional service was held Saturday for a La Verne teacher and track coach who died while volunteering as a rescue member during a search for a missing hiker on Mount Baldy two weeks ago.

Timothy Staples, 32, died Dec. 14 after becoming separated from his San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue partner and falling down an ice chute while looking for 52-year-old Sreenivas "Sree" Mokkapati.

Hundreds poured into Abundant Living Church in Rancho Cucamonga to remember Staples, who gave his life while trying to save another.

A popular Damien High School teacher, students, parents, staff, friends and family said Staples was dedicated to his job and to volunteering his time with the department.

"There is no more fitting way for Tim to have been called home to God. Doing what he loved and yet again striving to serve his fellow man, and to give a stranger he didn't even know the shirt off his back," friend Tim Seymour said.

Grieving members of the search and rescue team praised his skills as a leader.

"Tim personified what it means to be a search and rescue professional. A dedicated and loyal teammate, willing and able to answer the call for help at any hour and at any conditions," one search and rescue team member said. "He will forever be missed by his West Valley search and rescue family."

Students said Staples was a mentor and friend in the classroom.

He married his wife, who also teaches at the school, six months ago.

"I will forever cherish the fact that my brother and best friend left us in a manner so fitting and becoming for his amazing life," his brother said.

Search efforts for Mokkapati were suspended after Staples' death.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.