FRANKLIN PARK (KDKA) — In Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, back on April 11, a spontaneous snow pack gave way without warning. The avalanche stole the life of 34-year-old Craig Patterson.
“Trying to find out where his path took him, how and when he might have been caught,” says Liam Fitzgerald, the lead avalanche forecaster with the Utah Department of Transportation.
Patterson, whose parents live in Franklin Park, worked with a team of avalanche forecasters for the UDOT.
“These guys basically put their lives at risk to make sure ours are safe,” said Fitzgerald.
On that day, Craig was gauging snow conditions near a back-country skiing mecca called “God’s Lawn Mower.”
“This was his passion, the outdoors. He was a very avid environmentalist,” Lewis Patterson, Craig’s father said.
When ALCOA transferred the family to Switzerland, the mountains first captured Craig’s imagination. He was skiing at 4.
A North Allegheny graduate, Craig received his degree in geology from Miami University of Ohio and that’s where the adventure began.
“He went to Alaska. He was up there. That’s where he met his wife,” Donna Patterson, Craig’s mother, said. “He did the Appalachian Trail.”
When he made it to the summit of Mt. McKinley, Craig pulled out a picture of his daughter that he’d carried with him and a picture she’d drawn.
He adored his wife, Renae, and 6-year-old, Kaya.
He knew his job was dangerous, but Patterson had studied and taught the science of avalanches. He was a seven-year veteran of those mountains.
“His response was, ‘Well, when your number’s up, your number’s up,’” his mother said.
An investigation proved that he’d done everything right that day, according to his dad.
“They said that had any one of them been out there on the same day, the same result would have happened,” Lewis said.
Searchers worked into the night to find Craig. The call came to the Pattersons from his wife.
“She just basically said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you that Craig is dead, and you’ve lost your son,’ and she started crying,” Lewis said.
Hundreds of friends turned out for a Memorial Service in Park City, Utah.
Craig’s bright blue eyes were always on the horizon.
“I look up into the sky on certain days or at night, the stars and all that, and recognize that’s where I think he is,” Craig’s father added.
And, that his spirit now belongs to the mountains he loved.
On Saturday, June 22, at 9 a.m., a Mass will be celebrated a Sts. John and Paul Catholic Church on Wexford Bayne Road followed by a memorial service at the parish hall at 10:30 a.m.