SOLANA BEACH – A beloved teacher at Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach was found dead last week after a rock climbing accident in Joshua Tree National Park, according to the National Park Service and school officials.
Michael Spitz, a 35-year-old Spanish teacher, died on Sunday evening from injuries he sustained while rock-climbing at the Sentinel Rock Formation in Joshua Tree National Park, according to the Riverside County coroner’s office.
His body was found just before 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, at the base of the Sentinel Wall near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. The report said it is believed that Spitz suffered an undisclosed fatal injury around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, about 16 hours before he was found.
The school shared the news in a Facebook post explaining that Spitz was beloved by the students and staff.
“Michael Spitz’s passion for the Lord was infectious and came out in every conversation. This, combined with a love for the kids, made us a better school,” the statement read in part.
“Outside of teaching, he was drawn to the outdoors and travel. He was a multi-sport adventure athlete, life-long surfer, avid rock climber, licensed skydiver, backpacker, and lover of books and coffee. He co-founded Vida Outreach in Baja California, Mexico, to share the hope of Christ and help families fight the cycle of poverty,” the statement continued.
Vida Outreach is a nonprofit started more than 10 years ago that is committed to transforming communities in Mexico through hunger relief, development, and education.
Students who were impacted by the news were able to go home early or spend time with their pastors to grieve the news.
Meanwhile, family members of Spitz gathered at Joshua Tree to remember him and celebrate his life last week with a display of colorful lights and a cello player.
“Please pray for Michael’s family, our Upper School students, staff, and the entire community as we walk through the loss of a dear friend and colleague we knew and loved. We will share opportunities for support and remembrance in the coming days,” the school said.
According to the National Park Service, the investigation into Spitz’s death is ongoing.