Steamboat Springs Friends and co-workers are mourning the shocking death of Steamboat Springs resident Willard Anderson, who died in a mountain-biking accident Tuesday evening in Utah.
The 44-year-old Colorado Mountain College plant director died in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. He apparently crashed into a large boulder.
"It seems to be one of those tragic occurrences," said Paul Henderson, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the Utah park. "It appears to be a freak accident."
An autopsy is being conducted by the Utah State Medical Examiner to determine a cause of death, he said.
Officials at Colorado Mountain College, where Anderson worked since 1982, learned of the news Wednesday.
Olive Morton, the college's director of community education, received a phone call from a person with the group in Utah.
"We are very sad and shocked," Morton said Friday. "It's a somber mood here."
Morton knew Anderson ever since he started working with the college.
"He always planned everything out," she said. "He always had his feet on the ground."
To go on the biking trip, Anderson an avid mountain biker and fly fisherman took a week of vacation. He was expected to return to work on Monday.
"He was looking forward to the trip," Morton said. "He loved to mountain bike."
Anderson was on a multi-day biking trip with a group of 11 people, including his wife, Lisa Godbolt, and his two young children. The group was biking the popular White Rim Road in the park's Island in the Sky District.
"The group had reached their camp for the evening," Henderson said. Anderson "decided to take a spur-of-the-moment ride by himself. We believe the death occurred between 5 and 7 p.m."
Park officials believe Anderson, who was wearing a helmet, was coming down a trail on Hardscrabble Hill when the accident occurred.
"Hardscrabble Hill is a fairly steep hill," Henderson said. "Hundreds of people ride through that area a year without having a mishap."
Anderson was found by another person in the group. He was not breathing and did not have a pulse.
For 17 years, Steve Smith worked with Anderson in maintaining the college's campus.
"He was very passionate in everything, including his job," Smith said. "He was honest and fair. He held to what he thought was right. He was not here to be popular. He was here to do a job, and he was well respected.
"We are going to miss him. The college and community lost a tremendous resource and asset."
On May 4, Anderson would have celebrated his 45th birthday.