TERREBONNE, Ore. - (Update: Adding video, comments from friend of fall victim)
The Hillsboro man who fell to his death at Smith Rock State Park Saturday morning is being remembered by grief-stricken friends as the "glue" that kept his group of fellow climbers together.
Chaitanya Sathe, 35, was an avid climber who was descending the Lower Gorge path at Smith Rock when authorities said he apparently tripped and fell about 100 feet, prompting a recovery effort.
Four sheriff’s deputies, Redmond Fire crews and a dozen Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers headed to the area and learned Sathe had died at the scene, Deputy Aaron Myers said.
Andrew Knight, who lives in Bend, said the tragic accident seemed very random and sudden for someone like Sathe. He heard about the accident Saturday evening from a fellow climber in Portland.
In fact, the advanced rock climbing classes he and Knight took together were held at Smith Rock.
"You know you expect climbing to go wrong when you're on the hard part," Knight said. "Just tripping on the way to the climb kind of hits, like hearing a friend get into a car accident. It just feels random."
The Mazamas, a Portland-based nonprofit mountaineering group Sathe was part of, said he was descending with a couple of friends and that it's unclear what exactly caused him to fall.
Knight told NewsChannel 21 about the time Sathe, an engineer at Intel, brought his group of fellow climbers together at a lodge near Mount Hood. Knight said that's when he felt his group developed a friendship outside of the climbing classes.
"While everyone's drinking and having a good time, he's sitting at the table doing math of the mechanical advantage systems (of pulling someone out of a crevasse) on a napkin, and when he had it all figured out, he was so excited," Knight recalled.
Mazamas executive directors Sarah Bradham and Mitsu Iwasaki said in an email to members that Sathe assisted and participated in several climbs with group members.
The directors said conversations with Sathe's peers showed "Chaitanya was loved by many and well-respected as a climber."
KGW reported Monday on a message the Mazamas sent to members.
"Yesterday we lost a dear member of our community. While out on a personal day of climbing at Smith Rock State Park, Chaitanya Sathe suffered a fatal fall while descending fourth-class terrain into the Lower Gorge," it stated.
"As climbers, we recreate in environments with objective hazards. We engage in a lifetime of learning to lessen risk, but, as we all know, it is not possible to eliminate risk entirely," the group said.
"When accidents occur, we find ourselves asking and being asked many questions—from media, friends, and families. While we know there are and will be unanswered questions, we encourage all of us not to speculate or draw conclusions as to what may have happened. We will do our part, as Mazamas, to learn and share what we can," the statement added.
The Mazamas said they are offering counseling for members, and memorial service plans are pending.
A GoFundMe page also has been established to support Sathe's family, at https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-chaitanya-sathe039s-family.
Page organizer Linda Man said that on Sunday, Sathe's "father got a phone call that all parents fear -- news that his beloved child had preceded him in death." She said he "is traveling alone from India on a 24-hour journey to see his Chaitanya for a final time," and requested donations to help defray the costs involved.
"Any extra money will be donated to the Mazamas, in honor of Chaitanya whose joy in the mountains was irrepressible," the statement concluded. "Please keep the Sathe family in your thoughts."