LA VERNE, Calif. (KABC) -- Shock and sadness overcame the campus of a La Verne high school Monday at a prayer service for a teacher and track coach who died while volunteering as a rescue member during a search for a missing hiker on Mount Baldy.
Timothy Staples, 32, died 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, who has been missing for over a week.
A popular Damien High School teacher, parents, students and staff said Staples was dedicated to his job and to volunteering his time with the department.
"He just made you feel good, and you could see how much he was loved by everyone in this community," parent Yvette Oseguera-Perez said.
The nine-year veteran with the sheriff's department was experienced with extensive training, authorities said, but investigators are working to figure out exactly what happened.
"He volunteered after they had asked for more volunteers to go into that, and he knew the consequences that could come in," student Hector Varela said.
Staples was remembered for his volunteer work.
"He was good, he was pure and selfless. Unfortunately, that resulted in where we are now," teacher Quincy Simms said.
Students said Staples was a leader, mentor and friend.
"Just the amount of courage that he had to go out and do what he did, saving lives and search and rescue, just blows me away," student Jackson Capitano said.
Those close to Staples say he had just married his wife, who also teaches at the school, six months ago.
"Just seeing their wedding pictures, and what a beautiful family I knew they were, and he will be deeply missed by everyone here," Oseguera-Perez said.
A GoFundMe campaign has been established for the family.
San Bernardino authorities have not decided if and when they will resume search efforts for Mokkapati which were suspended as operations are "re-evaluated."
SoCal search and rescue volunteer who died while looking for missing hiker remembered as 'pure and selfless'
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