'It went horribly wrong': Special-needs teacher dies in tragic accident in national park

A special-needs teacher and philanthropist died in Yosemite National Park while rock climbing when something went “horribly wrong”.

Patricia “Trish” Stoops, 57, a teacher in Modesto, California, died of blunt force trauma to the head while rappelling on June 8, according to KCRA.

Trish’s brother Michael Stoops wrote on a website for climbers she had taken the lead to help the team down before dark when the tragedy occurred.

“Something, what exactly still isn’t clear, went horribly wrong,” he wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“She did not survive the fall, unfortunately. No one else was injured.”

Patricia Stoops, a skilled rock climber, died in Yosemite National Park in June. Source: Facebook/Jamey Johnson-Olney

Members of rock climbing group The Mountain Project shared loving memories of the teacher with a “heart of gold” on a tribute page.

“I never met a climber more dedicated to supporting our tribe than Trish. She selflessly gave of her time, leading skills, friendship, and humour to anyone in the vicinity. Funny, spontaneous, gregarious, and sincere, Trish made an impression on anyone she met,” a fellow climber wrote.

“She was a unique human being, spreading good vibrations around the universe.”

Another said: “Goodbye to my dear 20-year climbing friend. I will miss your adventurous spirit. You were sometimes scary, always unique, inclusive, and kind. Always ready to stand up for the underdog and to help people in need.”

Trish’s friend Jamey Olney, also a teacher at Norman N. Glick Middle School, wrote a loving Facebook post calling her “brave, brash, funny, smart, and loved everyone she came in contact with”.

“She was a living, breathing example of a life lived abundantly and joyfully,” the colleague said.

Olney and Trish, who gave up a lucrative career as an architect to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, co-founded The H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Everywhere) Project to take their students on service trips and encourage kindness.

They distributed meals to people affected by last year’s Camp Fire in Paradise, California, and were to take a trip to Mexico on July 26 to build a home for a need-based family.

“I'd like to thank our friends and family and especially the climbing community for your support of this project. We are going to see this project to completion and honour the life and legacy of an angel here on earth,” he said.

Trish was so respected in the climbing community that according to an obituary, a route in Arizona will be retitled in her name.

“Next time you're in the hills, go climb it, and know that Trish was there,” a friend shared on The Mountain Project.

“Our family is blown away by this outpouring of love and respect for Trish,” her brother wrote on The Mountain Project.

“We want the climbing community to know that following a family service for Trish back in Michigan at the end of June, we will be having a service for her in the Modesto area where her ashes will be spread.”

A representative for the Association of National Park Rangers did not return Yahoo’s request for comment.

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