Todd Byers was an archaeologist who loved to explore. His 14-year-old son, Brayden, was always up for an adventure.
On Saturday, the father and son were in the mountains, near Shaver Lake, doing what “our dad loved best – they were hiking around and looking for treasures,” according to a GoFundMe account for the Clovis family.
But the early afternoon hike took a tragic turn when the pair, who were at Shaver Rock on the west side of the lake, below the dam, fell about 400 feet off an embankment into a deep canyon to their deaths, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said. The GoFundMe page said the pair wandered off the trail. Byers’ wife, Lisa, was hiking with them on Saturday, said Rosemary Dobney, Lisa Byers’ cousin.
The sheriff’s office has no other details about what happened.
The remote location made the recovery effort difficult, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said. A Fresno County sheriff’s Eagle One helicopter used in the operation on Saturday experienced a power failure during the mission. The pilot was able to land the helicopter safely on the boat ramp at Edison Campground. Recovery efforts resumed Sunday.
Byers, 49, was an archaeologist in the environmental department for the state Department of Transportation, where he was employed for nearly nine years. He was a self-starter who taught himself how to use the agency’s GIS mapping software, Caltrans said. Colleagues leaned on him because of his knowledge of the software.
“Todd was a well-respected member of our Caltrans family and he served the citizens of California and the Central Valley with integrity and pride,” said Cory Burkarth, Caltrans public information officer.
He was passionate about his work and was a committed employee with a great sense of humor, providing his co-workers many laughs over the years, the state agency said.
Byers played on Caltrans’ softball team for several years. Co-workers say he was also in a band, loved food (including barbecue and carne asada tacos) and enjoyed making things out of old wood.
“He was the ultimate team player at work and was someone his co-workers could turn to when they needed help on a project or assignment,” Burkarth said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Todd’s wife, family and friends during this difficult time.”
Grief counselors have been made available to Caltrans staff through the Employee Assistance Program.
Brayden was a ninth-grade student at Clovis High School, said Kelly Avants, spokeswoman for the Clovis Unified School District. School psychologists were made available to students.
Clovis High Principal Denver Stairs said in a statement, “We are heartbroken over this tragedy and have reached out to the family to offer our resources and support.”
A GoFundMe account was created Tuesday asking the public to help the family, which includes Byers’s wife, Lisa, and three children; Alyssa, Mariah and Bryce.
This is the second disaster to hit the family in the last two months. Mariah Byers was the victim of a serious hit-and-run auto accident last month.
How to help:
A GoFundMe account has been set up for The Byers Family Memorial Fund gofundme.com/the-byers-family-memorial-fund