Park City memorializes teen killed in Europe, Christopher Yeates
July 8, 2008
In a rush of loyalty and courage, friends of Christopher Yeates scrambled down the side of a mountain to come to his aid. Although they came too late to save him, their selfless act honored the young man who repeatedly demonstrated devotion to friends and family over the course of his life.
Christopher, who graduated from Park City High School (PCHS) in June, slipped while hiking with his former classmates in Austria and fell some 60 to 80 feet to his death.
An experienced climber, Christopher grew up canyoneering and rappelling in Moab. The trail that claimed his life less than two weeks ago presented no major challenge to Yeates, but slick conditions caused him to lose his footing. Park City classmates scurried to administer CPR and other emergency first aid, but the fall proved fatal. All of the students were taking part in a European excursion planned for PCHS graduates who have completed an art history course.
Christopher is survived by his mother, Kelly, an English teacher at PCHS, his father, Matthew and sister Megan. Matthew and Kelly described Christopher as a person who "would do anything for anyone" and someone who chanced his own privacy and sanity to help friends. Matthew recalled that, after Yeates had asked his parents to allow a friend to stay with them for six months, both he and Kelly had cautioned their son that such proximity could strain their friendship. In response, Christopher simply shrugged and said, "He would do the same for me."
Born in Portland, Ore. in 1989, Yeates moved to Park City at age seven with his mother. He enrolled at McPolin Elementary School and received skiing lessons from Matthew, a former ski instructor. The young Christopher took well to skiing, but broke his father’s heart by renting a snowboard and failing to mention that momentous decision to either of his parents. Christopher was never afraid to try something new, said his parents.
Although Christopher had some difficulty in elementary school and middle school, he learned to express himself through activity and his unique sense of humor. Before his early teens he took up both karate and paintball. Christopher nearly earned a black belt in karate and was a crack shot at paintball, so much so that he inadvertently attracted police attention.
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While playing outdoors with a friend, Christopher caught the eye of a neighbor who deemed the boys too close to their flammable barbecue for comfort. In response, this neighbor called the Park City Police Department who sent several officers in full body armor to speak to the boys. Carrying guns, the police officers gave the two boys a serious start.
Despite the scare, Christopher maintained an interest in combat and joined the Medieval Fight Club while at Park City High School. The group, which often convened in Salt Lake City, invited students to don armor and foam-wrapped PVC swords to engage in swordplay. Matthew remembered helping his son build his costume.
Like other his age, Christopher also grew up as a fan of popular culture and video games. Twice, he made pilgrimages to Comic-Con in San Diego and dragged his mother to Salt Lake City to buy a Nintendo Wii at 2 in the morning. He also had a strong love of music, installing $1,500 worth of speakers in his Ford Explorer. He played his rock so loud that some of his younger sister’s friends refused to take rides from him.
While at PCHS, Christopher also took an active interest in film. He worked on several films through Christopher Maddux’s program and even completed a short film he hoped to premiere at the Miners’ Film Festival, a production of PCHS.
His interest in the outdoors, however, remained one of his primary passions up until the very moment he passed away. Matthew recalled with a degree of fondness Christopher’s tendency to simply say "Jupe" (Jupiter Bowl) when asked where he was and why he wasn’t home. Christopher routinely took trips to Arizona where he visited friends and wrecked cars off-roading. The family trips to Moab where Christopher demonstrated his climbing skills remain Matthew’s "greatest memories."
So advanced were Christopher’s outdoor skills that his family could hardly believe the circumstances of his death. "He was where he wanted to be," said Kelly. Both parents repeatedly stressed that his fall was merely an accident and that they still have nothing but faith and admiration for John Krenkel, Ed Potts and Bob Burns, who are leading the European tour. "Up until his very last step, he was having the time of his life," said Kelly.
A community comes together
In the hours after Christopher’s passing, one of his friends set up a facebook.com page as a memorial. Only a day after his passing, hundreds of visitors had left comments and reminiscences. Other friends left a "Y" in the center of the huge "PC" on the hill above Treasure Mountain International School. A sign that reads "We Love You Chris" adorns the overpass above Interstate 80 in Kimball Junction.
His family got multitudes of calls and condolences from across Park City. Matthew said that a person whom he had never before met even offered to place him on a direct flight to Paris the same evening she phoned him. "I have no words to describe the support and outpouring of help it’s the glue that helped us hang together," said Matthew.
The family also received visits from Christopher’s friends who shared their memories over pancakes at a local diner. Even his sister’s friends did their share by organizing a lemonade stand and donating the money they earned to the Christopher Yeates Memorial Fund. They dropped off the $70 in a fruit jar decorated with ribbons.
The Christopher Yeates Memorial Fund, established at Zions Bank, will collect donations in honor of Christopher to be used as scholarship funds or for a memorial plaque where Christopher slipped. The Yeates family has even discussed using the fund to pay for a student to attend the European tour in the future. The account number, accessible at any Zions Bank, is 098-363054.
Two services are currently planned to remember Christopher. The first will be Saturday, July 12 at 10 a.m. in the Park City Community Church Fellowship Hall. The second service is planned for July 26, two days after students on the European tour return from their trip.
The group, which faced a difficult decision after the accident, has continued to travel Europe using the time to grieve together, aided by Red Cross counselors who have traveled with them. Many of the students have taken the time to post comments on the facebook.com page or personally email the Yeates family from Europe.