A man who died earlier this month while rock climbing in Nevada was a Windber native.
Timothy Cicotello knew his brother, Louis, was an experienced mountaineer.
He said he was devastated when word came that his 70-year-old brother had fallen to his death while rappelling with another brother, David.
“When something like this happens, it’s so sudden, you’re just not ready for it,” Timothy Cicotello, 56, said.
“I spoke with Louis over the Christmas holiday. You never think it’s going to be your last time. It’s a big loss.”
In a chilling account from The Associated Press, the two Windber natives were rappelling about 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in an area known as No Man’s Canyon.
“What they were doing, it wasn’t beginners stuff,” Timothy said, speaking softly after receiving kidney dialysis.
Louis set an anchor and fed rope through a rappelling ring. And he went over the ledge.
Moments later, the rope whipped through the ring and disappeared.
David, unable to reach his brother, spent the next six days on a ledge as Louis lay motionless 100 feet below.
David Cicotello, an admissions official at Middle Tennessee State University, and Louis Cicotello, chairman of the Art Department at the University of Colorado, set out on March 5 for a six-day trip.
The brothers had explored canyons together for several years. David gave his fiancee a map of their planned camps and promised to call her March 10.
The second day they rappelled 40 feet to a ledge in a crevice, 100 feet from the canyon bottom. They planned to eat lunch after rappelling down, then walk an old horse trail back to the rim. David had left his cell phone in his truck, knowing it wouldn’t work inside the canyon.
“David couldn’t see what my brother was doing down over the ledge,” Timothy said. “All of a sudden my brother was gone.”
David spent six days trapped, surviving on some water or tea and a few bites of food each day.
Animals and birds drank from a pool at the floor of the canyon.
David kept warm attaching wool socks to his baseball cap and lit small fires along the side of the ledge.
Rescuers began their search on March 11, after relatives reported the men missing.
The ordeal ended when David was airlifted to a hospital where he was treated for dehydration and minor injuries.
“Physically, he’s fine, but he may never get over this,” Timothy said.
Louis’ body was recovered hours after the rescue.
A memorial service was held Saturday at the University of Colorado.
“What they were doing was a very dangerous type of rappelling,” Timothy Cicotello said.
“You make a mistake, you fall to your death. That’s pretty much a given.”
Timothy said his family including a fourth brother, Carl, now 68, grew up in Windber, where the family owned a flooring business.
He mourns the loss of his brother, but he also is grateful.
“If there’s any saving grace, one of my brothers survived,” he said.