Park Ranger Tragically Dies in Freak Accident While Helping Visitors During Annual Festival

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 29, 2024

Tragedy struck at Bryce Canyon National Park’s annual Astronomy Festival this year. One of the park’s rangers was helping a visitor when he fell, hit his head on a large rock, and sadly passed away.

Tom Lorig dedicated 56 years of his life working at Park Ranger throughout the United States. The organization, as well as his beloved family and friends, will feel this significant loss.

Tom Lorig: A Lifelong Park Ranger

Tom Lorig worked as a registered nurse in Seattle, Washington, for more than 40 years, but that wasn’t the only life-saving and important job on his resume.

A photograph or Carlsbad National Park in New Mexico, USA

Source: iStock

Lorig had also worked as a volunteer and seasonal park ranger for more than half a century, first working for the National Parks Service at Carlsbad National Park in New Mexico in 1968.

Park Ranger Lorig Served at 14 National Parks Throughout His Life

Over the past 56 years, Tom Lorig has served the National Parks Service at 14 parks throughout the country.

A sign for the National Park Service on a brick entryway

Source: iStock

Including Dinosaur National Monument, Zion, Yosemite, Saguaro, Olympic, New River Gorge. Mount Rainier, Klondike Gold Rush, Badlands, El Malpais, Florissant Fossil Beds, and most recently, Bryce Canyon.

Tragedy Under the Stars

Bryce Canyon famously hosts its Astronomy Festival every year, but this year, there was an extremely sad end to the otherwise beautiful event.

A promotional photograph for the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival, showing a starry sky behind a rock formation

Source: Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival

Tom Lorig was working at the festival in the park on Friday, June 7, 2024, when he passed away around 11:30 PM.

Park Ranger Lorig Was Helping a Visitor Find the Bus

Reports state that Lorig was assisting a visitor in finding the bus they needed when he accidentally slipped on the pavement. As he fell, Lorig hit his head on a large rock and was immediately unresponsive.

A blue road sign showing a bus against a gray sky

Source: Freepik

The visitor Lorig had been helping quickly notified nearby law enforcement, who called for an ambulance within moments of the fall.

The EMTs Were Unable to Revive Lorig

Sadly, by the time the EMTs arrived, they were unable to revive Lorig, even after providing lifesaving care.

Two emergency responders bring their gear from the back of an ambulance to an emergency

Source: Freepik

At 78 years old, after a lifetime of service to the National Parks Service, Tom Lorig was declared dead at one of his most beloved parks, doing what he loved.


Tom Lorig Will Be Missed

After Lorig’s passing, the Bryce Canyon National Parks Service posted on its Facebook page to honor and commemorate Lorig’s dedication to the nation’s parks.

A commemorative photograph of Tom Lorig and his park ranger hat sitting on a fence post

Source: @Bryce Canyon National Park/Facebook

They wrote, “Tom was a dedicated public servant, and his loss will be felt by the many who knew him across the National Park Service,” alongside a photograph of Lorig and his NPS hat resting on a fence post.


NPS Superintendent Said Lorig Forged Connection

After Lorgi’s passing, NPS Superintendent Jim Ireland released a statement to the press saying that Lorig “served Bryce Canyon, the National Park Service, and the public as an interpretive park ranger, forging connections between the world and these special places that he loved.”

The entrance sign for Bryce Canyon National Park in the USA

Source: Flickr

Ireland continued, “As our community processes and grieves this terrible loss, we extend our deepest condolences to all of Ranger Lorig’s family and friends.”


Working as a Park Ranger Can Be Dangerous

Many people don’t realize that working as a park ranger in one of the country’s many breathtaking national parks is actually quite dangerous.

A photograph of a picturesque rock arch in Bryce Canyon National Park

Source: @Bryce Canyon National Park/Facebook

According to a report from NPR, rangers work with little backup in remote areas and face dangers such as unruly wildlife, disrespectful visitors, and extreme or unexpected weather. Laura Sullivan explained, “US park rangers are facing more danger than they ever have before.”


Violence Against Rangers Has Increased

Unfortunately, it’s not just the tumultuous weather and unpredictable wildlife that threaten the lives of park rangers. Sulivan explained, “Assaults on park rangers reached an all-time high last year, sometimes from criminals, sometimes from campers.”

Two park rangers stand in a forest holding binoculars and a clipboard

Source: Freepik

She noted, “Park rangers are five times more likely to be assaulted than US border patrol officers, and 12 times more likely to be attacked than FBI agents.”


Park Visitors Need to Respect Rangers

One problem that Sullivan mentioned was that many park visitors don’t respect the rangers as law enforcement, which they most certainly are.

Two park rangers standing on the side of a lake next to the mountains of a US National Park

Source: Pxfuel

She, and all other National Park Services rangers hope that Americans and visitors from around the world will learn to respect not only the nature around them but the men and women who dedicate their time to protecting everyone and everything in the nation’s beautiful parks.


Park Ranger Tom Lorig Will Not Be Forgotten

Even though Park Ranger Tom Lorig was not a victim of violence from a park visitor, wildlife, or weather, his passing is certainly an opportunity for people to learn about the dangers these rangers face every day at their jobs.

A photograph of Park Ranger Tom Lorig with the text “Rest in Peace”

Source: @Cleveland19News/X

Tom Lorig’s loyalty to America’s national parks and the millions of visitors they receive every year will never be forgotten. As the NPS said, Lorig was a “dedicated public servant,” and he will be remembered by his family and the organization for his lifetime of service.