Gallatin County Search and Rescue volunteers responding to the avalanche incident at Beehive Basin on Valentine’s Day. PHOTO COURTESY OF GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST AVALANCHE CENTER

Valentine’s Day heartbreak

Elementary school principal dies from Beehive Basin avalanche

The loss of 45-year-old Whittier Elementary School Principal Craig Kitto due to injuries sustained from an avalanche at Beehive Basin on Valentine’s Day has sent shockwaves throughout the Bozeman community, the region, the nation and the world.

"This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire district, especially our students,” Bozeman Public Schools Interim Co-Superintendents Marilyn King and Casey Bertram wrote in a press release.

According to his obituary he grew up in Montana under the “cowboy tutelage of his Grampa Kenny and his Dad, Rick: “He was an amazing Dad, not only to his two girls, but also a father figure to countless children who loved his warm, affectionate manner in their schools.”

The Valentine’s Day avalanche occurred during the ascent of the basin which has yearround popularity with outdoor enthusiasts.

“They were skinning up the slope when they felt the slope collapse and saw cracks spreading around them. One of them fought to grab trees and self-arrested. The other (Kitto) was carried downslope where he impacted a tree, was partially buried, and sustained critical injuries,” according to a Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center press release.

His friend who was not caught in the avalanche was able to mobilize Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) via his cell phone and descended to help Kitto. SAR transferred care to the Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD) and Life Flight. He died the following day.

SAR Commander Capt. Scott Secor said the incident is heartbreaking. Along with the rest of the sheriff ’s office and BSFD he offers his condolences to Kitto’s friends and family.

The current snowpack is legendary in its instability and unpredictability. Early February saw the deadliest week of avalanches since 1910, according to Denver Post reporting.

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