Forecaster Killed in Avalanche Died 'Doing the Job He Loved'

Craig Patterson, an avalanche forecaster, was killed in an avalanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon. He was reported missing on Thursday evening, and rescuers were able to recover his body early this morning.

Patterson, 34, worked for the Utah Department of Transportation and was out on assignment when the avalanche took place. His family reported him missing when he failed to report back to the Department of Transportation. Co-workers found his car parked on the south side of the canyon and contacted police.

Rescuers located his body just before sunset and brought him in. The Department of Transportation is now investigating the incident, and the State Medical Examiner's Office is planning to conduct an autopsy. While it's unknown if Patterson may have accidentally set off the avalanche while checking snow stability, the technique he used has been known to cause avalanches.

"The UDOT family lost one of our own Thursday when veteran avalanche forecaster Craig Patterson died in a snow slide. Craig had worked with the department since 2006 and was a veteran backcountry skier. He was out doing the job that he loved to do, making the canyon safer for everyone to enjoy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones as we continue to gather information about this terrible tragedy," spokesman Nile Easton said in an official statement.

Patterson was "a friend, avalanche educator and integral part of Utah avalanche professionals trying to unravel the mysteries of snow and avalanches, and working to keep people safe," Evelyn Lees of the Utah Avalanche Center added.

Tributes to Patterson have been pouring in all day from around the country and throughout the state of Utah.

"During this difficult time Jeanette and I offer sincerest condolences and heartfelt prayers to the Craig Patterson family," Governor Gary Herbert tweeted.

"Really sad day for the Utah Backcountry community. Thoughts and prayers go out to Craig Patterson's friends and family," added Becca Babicz.