Many students at Mountain Crest High School dressed in their Sunday best today to honor an award-winning biology teacher who died after being struck by a train while duck hunting with his son in Spanish Fork Canyon about 20 miles north of Price.
Utah County sheriff’s deputies say 56-year-old Larry Litizzette was walking on a railroad bridge Saturday afternoon when he was hit by the Union Pacific train and fell about 20 feet into the Price River below.
They say the son pulled his father from the river, and the medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine if he died as a result of being hit by the train, the fall or drowning.
Principal Robert Henke found out about Litizzette’s death late on Saturday evening after receiving a phone call from a teacher in the science department. Henke said it has been quite a shock to the entire school.
“There have been a lot of tears shed by students and by staff. It's been kind of a somber and quiet day. It's not quite the same energy that you find in the halls,” Henke said. “I think everyone is handling it fairly well.”
Extra counselors were on hand at Mountain Crest on Monday, including a few in Litizzette’s class.
“We didn't get a substitute for his classes. Becky ONell, who teaches biology as well and is our department chair in our science department, she has started her class and then left a sub in her class and come over and kind of taken over his classes today to see where we are with things,” Henke said. “I've started the classes and we've had counselors in the class, who talked to the kids about things and then Becky has started with the academics.”
Litizzette was a long-time, award-winning biology teacher at Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum. Henke described him as being a very positive person.
“He was a wonderful staff member. He'd walk by my offices, just like the counselors' office and say, 'Hi, Bob.' Had a big smile every day,” Henke said. “The kids love him. He's passionate about his teaching.”
In 2010, he won the Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education. He also was named “Teacher of the Year” in separate votes by teachers and students at the school.
Henke noted that Litizzette was also passionate about the outdoors.
“You'd find him on a Friday heading up to go ski or find him on the weekend skiing. He loved to mountain bike. He loved to water ski. He was not only an avid golfer but a good golfer,” Henke said. “He passed away involved in doing what he loved best, which was being outside.”
As a way to honor Litizzette’s memory, students signed a banner that was set up in the common area of the school. Sophomore Tessa Schwab was one student who signed the banner. Schwab had taken Litizzette’s class previously and was one of his current students as well.
“I was very shocked. He acted very young. He was very healthy and always funny and down to earth,” Schwab said. “He really cared about his classes and was very passionate. He was so full of life that it just shocked me.”
Senior Anthony Peterson was also a former student of Litizzette and dressed up to honor his memory.
“I was surprised. It's crazy,” Peterson said. “I liked how laid back he was and how fun his class was.”
Henke said that he and the rest of the administration is in the process of trying to find someone to take over Litizzette’s classes for the rest of the school year.
“We are making contact with some people who we feel would be very capable taking over that. I would prefer not to have multiple subs,” Henke said. “I'm trying to find someone who can teach AP biology and who can finish out the school year. But there hasn't been any decision made yet.”
Henke said that Litizzette’s passing is a big loss to Mountain Crest.
“He's been a big part of the Mountain Crest family for almost the entire length of Mountain Crest,” Henke said. “He'll be greatly missed.”