HYRUM, Cache — As police investigate the death of Stanley Lawrence Litizzette, who was struck by a train Saturday, his colleagues at Mountain Crest High School are mourning the loss of a friend and beloved teacher.
"It's just hard to imagine he's not going to be here," Mountain Crest Principal Robert Henke said. "It is a big loss. It's a really big loss."
Litizzette, 56, was duck hunting with his son in Spanish Fork canyon Saturday when he was hit by a train on a railroad bridge and thrown into the Price River.
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said it is still unclear why Litizzette was on the tracks. Cannon said Litizzette may have simply been trying to pass from one area to another and didn't hear the train approaching, or was reluctant to jump down into the river 20 feet below.
"Some of the questions, only he could have answered for us," Cannon said.
Litizzette taught biology at Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum. He received a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education in 2010 and was known for his love of the outdoors and his efforts to create educational experiences for his students outside the classroom.
"I've had a number of field experiences," Litizzette said at the time of his Huntsman Award recognition. "I ended up learning a lot about the natural world and use a lot of that information in my classes as I'm teaching."
Henke said Litizzette had taught at Mountain Crest for 29 years. School officials plan to have grief counselors available at Mountain Crest when classes resume on Monday.
"We're just going to miss his smile, his love for teaching and his love for kids," Henke said.
Medical examiners will determine the cause of death, Cannon said, as it was not immediately apparent whether Litizzette was killed by the impact of the train, the fall from the bridge or from drowning in the river.
"We’re hoping the medical examiner will be able to give us some indication," he said.
Cannon reported that the train operators attempted to stop but were unsuccessful. Litizzette's body was ultimately retrieved from the river by his son, although Cannon said his office has received conflicting reports that train operators retrieved the body. Those accounts are unverified, he said, and do not change the nature of the case.
"We’re going by what we were told and we don’t have any reason to think otherwise," he said.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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