Beloved park ranger dies in fall at Utah’s Bryce Canyon during annual festival

A beloved National Park Service ranger died when he tripped, fell and struck his head on a rock during an annual astronomy festival in southwestern Utah, park officials said over the weekend.

Tom Lorig was 78 when he died after the incident at Bryce Canyon National Park late Friday.

He was known for his extensive work as a ranger and volunteer at 14 National Park Service sites, including Yosemite National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, the park service said in a statement Saturday.

“Tom Lorig served Bryce Canyon, the National Park Service, and the public as an interpretive park ranger, forging connections between the world and these special places that he loved,” Bryce Canyon Superintendent Jim Ireland said in the statement.

In a separate statement on Facebook, the park said, “Tom was a dedicated public servant, and his loss will be felt by the many who knew him across the National Park Service.”

Lorig was directing a Bryce Canyon visitor to a shuttle bus about 11:30 p.m. — the last shuttle was scheduled to depart the festival at 12:15 a.m. — when he tripped, fell and struck the rock, the park service said.

A park visitor saw that he was unconscious and summoned help, it said.

Other park rangers, Garfield County emergency medical services first responders and park visitors tried to revive Lorig, the park service said.

Lorig had worked and volunteered on and off for the park service since 1968, when he began a five-year stretch at the subterranean Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, according to the National Park Service. He also worked in the Seattle area as a registered nurse for a time.

In June 2013, he drove his truck from his home in Washington state to New Mexico to return a historic painted wood sign that once marked the location of Mirror Lake in the Big Room 79 stories below ground level at Carlsbad Cavern, the park service said.

Lighted signs were installed at the park in 1973, and employees were allowed to take the old ones, he said in a statement in 2013. Lorig described the Mirror Lake sign as “the most-coveted one.”

Now in the museum collection of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the sign includes “mirror-image text that read right-side up when reflected on the surface of the pool,” Lorig said in 2013.

“I’m glad the sign is back at Carlsbad Caverns,” he said then. “This is where it belongs.”

The Wednesday-through-Saturday Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival celebrated space with the help of night skies. Each year it offers telescope viewing, workshops on astrophotography and constellation tours.

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