Santa Fe Christian teacher killed in Joshua Tree climbing accident

San Diego resident Michael Spitz was injured Sunday and found dead Monday at the base of the Sentinel Wall at Joshua Tree National Park


A North County high school teacher was found dead this week after an apparent climbing accident in Joshua Tree National Park, according to the National Park Service and school officials.

(File photo)

A Riverside County coroner’s office press release identified the victim as 35-year-old San Diego resident Michael Spitz, who was found just before 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, at the base of the Sentinel Wall near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail.

According to a Facebook post from Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach, Spitz was employed there as an Upper School Spanish teacher and died in a rock-climbing accident. The coroner’s office did not disclose details regarding the circumstances of Spitz’s death, but stated that he sustained an unspecified injury around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16.

The school’s statement said Spitz co-founded Vida Outreach — a Baja California-nonprofit — and described him as a “multi-sport adventure athlete, life-long surfer, avid rock climber, licensed skydiver, backpacker, and lover of books and coffee.”

The post included a selfie Spitz had taken adventuring on a snowcapped mountain.

“Michael Spitz’s passion for the Lord was infectious and came out in every conversation,” according to the school’s statement. “This, combined with a love for the kids, made us a better school.”

According to the National Park Service, a multi-agency investigation into Spitz’s death, headed by the Riverside County coroner’s office, was ongoing.