Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

August 18, 2013

Fatal Attraction: Georgia man’s love of Montana ends in tragedy


-- — Family ties

Steve Parker was at a doctor’s appointment with another of his sons when his phone rang, 24 hours after Austin had gone missing.

It was his sister-in-law, Charlotte Parker.

“Austin’s missing,” was all she said.

Back at home, Steve started communicating with the park rangers who were looking for Parker.

At dusk on Tuesday, rangers called off the search due to darkness, a routine procedure.

They were back on the site early the next morning, searching by foot and by helicopter for any sign of Parker.

After searching for all of Wednesday — until lack of light once again prohibited their search — there was still no sign of Parker.

Thursday midmorning, in good light, searchers in an overhead helicopter spotted something — Parker’s backpack and jacket on a scree slope near the summit, in an impossible location of the mountain.

Sad news

Eric Morey, a park ranger who was actively involved in the search for Parker, had been exchanging texts and phone calls with Steve throughout the entire search for his son. He texted Steve the news, but said that because of the steep location of Parker’s gear, the helicopter crew would have to go back and pick up search and rescue personnel to search for Austin, which would take about 30 minutes.

Steve began frantically texting Morey for updates.

All he got was one simple reply: “Stand by.”

Minutes later, Steve’s phone rang. It was Morey.

“Mr. Parker, are you sitting down?” Morey asked.

“Your mind plays tricks on you,” Steve later said. “What I heard was, ‘Austin’s sitting down.’”

Then, Steve heard something no parent should ever have to hear.

“We have found your son,” Morey said. “He is deceased.”

“There really is something to being able to step out your door and walk to one of the most beautiful places on earth … the sheer magnitude of the place, with only precious few spots of human intervention to delineate it from its original, permanent state, boggles the mind.” – Austin Parker’s blog, July 2

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