Doctor killed in climbing accident
Dr. Steven Levesque, a well-respected South Lake Tahoe physician, apparently died in a rock climbing accident that occurred at midday Sept. 11 on the Temple Crag route in the Sierra Nevada mountains west of Big Pine, his wife Janice confirmed Thursday.
He was 47.
Five rescue crews were still on the scene 500 feet below the summit that evening in an attempt to recover the body in a remote section of a known climbing spot one mile from Mount Sill, Inyo County Search and Rescue Coordinator Sgt. Randy Nixon reported that afternoon.
Nixon would not confirm the body was that of Levesque, who has worked for Tahoe Family Physicians for four years.
Levesque was lead climbing on a rope on the 2,500-foot rock face with South Shore Dr. Ric Tietz, when Levesque’s two top anchors — known as “protection” — gave way. The third anchor held, but Levesque was hurled into the wall in a 100-foot fall and received a fatal head injury, his wife recalled what Tietz had told her.
She got the call at her home at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“Ric said right before it happened, he said, ‘I’m so glad you’re my friend, and you’re willing to do this with me. This is the greatest day of my life,'” she recounted.
Another climbing party rescued Tietz, who was attached to the same rope. Tietz stayed in the area to help rescue crews recover the body.
With friends huddled around her for support, Levesque said she was in shock.
Before he left on the trip, he told his wife of 15 years “that I need to do this for my soul.”
She said she takes some solace in knowing her husband died doing an activity he loved.
It’s been traumatic for their two children, 10-year-old David and 6-year-old Elise, she said.
“We’ve had a great outpouring of love and support. It’s overwhelming,” she said.
It’s still hard to grasp for the doctor, who also works at Tahoe Family Physicians and as the Alpine County public health officer.
“I tell my patients, ‘when you have a major event like this in your life, you shouldn’t make any major decisions,'” she said. “I’m going to try to take my own advice.”
Services are pending the recovery of Levesque’s body.
Levesque grew up in Huntington Beach. Beyond mountain climbing, he enjoyed surfing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing and sailing.
Levesque went to medical school at University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Dr. Greg Bergner, who worked closely with Levesque, noted how his comrad was a capable and skilled physician. But it was the human being he respected the most.
“He cared about all the right things in life. He lived life to the fullest,” Bergner said Thursday afternoon, adding Levesque’s involvement with Sierra Community Church.
The doctor said the mood is very somber at Tahoe Family Physicians, where the staff is devastated by the loss.
“This is a huge loss to our practice and to the community. He was such a good human being. He touched a lot of lives,” he said. “I think he will certainly be missed a lot by his patients for the care he’s provided. He was dedicated to them. He was dedicated to his family.”
Bergner said he planned to go home and hug his wife.
“We all have to constantly remind ourselves to be thankful for what we have,” he said.
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