(Alamosa County, Colorado) -- A hiking accident has claimed the life of a Seguin native. Barney Cruz IV, 27, died after falling from Mount Blanca in Alamosa County, Colorado.
According to the "Valley Courier" newspaper in Colorado, the accident was reported July 28. Cruz's identity reportedly was not known until a few days later. The newspaper stated that "witnesses heard rocks sliding and then saw the body of the man who had fallen around 11 a.m. on Friday, (July 28). Search and rescue teams recovered his body, bringing it down from the mountain Friday night."
Cruz was an extremely bright student. In fact, he was actually featured on KWED radio in high school for earning a perfect score on the ACT. He graduated first in his class at Navarro High School, and went on to graduate from Rice University with a degree in chemical engineering. He later attended Stanford University to further his post-graduate education. While at Stanford, his biochemistry research included his work helping to publish "Tracking of cell cycle phases by live-cell fluorescence microscopy using Fucci4 in human HeLa cells," which was featured in the journal Nature Methods and www.nature.com
Rosemary Ermel was one of his teachers during his time as a student in the Navarro ISD. Ermel says she has fond memories of Cruz. She says he was an exceptional young man and an exceptional student.
"Barney had a passion for life, and that's another thing I admired about him. From his ability -- his wonderful, passion for studies, which just seems so easy for him. But he (also) played the piano beutifully. He read voraciously. He embraced life, and to hear that he was hiking in a beautiful place, probably just to relax before -- I believe he was going to start a new position -- yes, it was just a tragedy, because there's no telling what Barney would have even accomplished more of in his life that affected more people. So yes, it's a trajedy. I just really can not stop thinking about it," said Roseymary Ermel.
Rosemary's sister-in-law Pat Ermel also taught Cruz at Navarro. She calls him one of the best students she ever encountered.
"I taught Barney uppper level math. I had him in pre-calculus and advanced placement calculus. I taught for 42 years, and Barney was probably the top five percent of all of the students I've ever taught. He was so smart, and so humble about it. He never made a big deal of it. You know how some kids can kind of act -- you know gloat it over the other kids. He never did (that). He was so humble about it, and so helpful with all of the other kids. If they ever had a question, and you know if I was busy, he would go over there and he would help them. He was phenomenal. He really was," said Pat Ermel.
Friends and family say Cruz was known for living life "adventurously." They say his thirst for knowledge parralleld those desires for adventure and competition.
Cruz leaves behind his parents Lanita and Barney Cruz III; and sisters, Ann and Katherine Cruz. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.
His family extended a special thank you to the hiker who made the call for help, and to all of the individuals who were involved in the recovery of his body from Mount Blanca. The list of those involved in the recovery effort includes the Special Operations Advanced Mountaineering School/10th Special Forces Group, the Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue, the Alamosa County Sheriff's Department and the Alamosa County Coroner's Office. Those interested in making a memorial contribution, in Cruz's honor, are encouraged to send donations to the Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue, P.O. Box 1604, Alamosa, Colorado, 81101.