LA VERNE (CBSLA) — A steady stream of students and search and rescue volunteers poured into Damien High School Monday afternoon to join a private prayer service for a beloved teacher.

(Credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department)

Timothy Staples, 32, was a nine-year veteran of the San Bernardino County’s West Valley Search and Rescue Team and a teacher at La Verne’s Damien High School. He was found unresponsive while searching large sections of Mt. Baldy for missing hiker, Sree Mokkapati.

According to SBCSD, Staples was separated from his partner Saturday afternoon. An air search later located him unresponsive on the ice and snow. A medic was lowered down from a helicopter and determined that Staples was dead. It was believed he may have taken a fatal fall on one of the notoriously narrow, ice-covered trails.

Students said they weren’t surprised that Staples gave his life trying to save someone else’s.

“He was like a true hero,” said student Fletcher Jones. “It’s not his fault. So it’s more just sorrow. It’s felt school-wide.”

Some of Staples’ students didn’t know he had been part of the Search and Rescue Team for 9 years, helping find people lost in some of the most dangerous terrains in the state.

His students described him as being selfless in the classroom as well.

“I always saw him not only as a teacher but as a friend,” said student Omar Doearwish. “He was a very selfless guy. Always putting others before himself.
Always offering tutoring. Always willing to answer every single question.”

The newly married teacher also coached cross country and track.

“Especially when I would come up to him after my track races and they were really bad. he’d have me think of the positives,” said Ruben Vasquez. RUBEN VASQUEZ

Staples’ family who held Monday’s private service say they absolutely treasured him.

A GoFundMe was created in memory of Staples.

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