A 28-year-old aspiring actor who won Pathfinders’ hearts on stage at the 2014 international camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has died while mountain climbing near a Seventh-day Adventist summer camp in Oregon.
Brian Robak, who was wrapping up a two-week contract job assisting the Oregon Conference-owned Big Lake Youth Camp with drama programs, disappeared while hiking solo on Mount Washington on June 30, police and church leaders said. A search-and-rescue team found his body on July 2.
“It appears Robak fell a significant distance from near the top of Mount Washington,” Nathan Garibay, a sergeant with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.
Twenty-five search-and-rescue volunteers from his office had teamed up with personnel from Big Lake Youth Camp, the Linn County Sheriff's Office, Corvallis Mountain Rescue, and the Oregon Army National Guard to search for Robak after Big Lake Youth Camp raised the alarm around 3:30 a.m. July 1.
“Our thoughts are with Brian’s family and friends, and we are saddened by this tragic outcome,” Garibay said. “The responding agencies would like to thank the Big Lake Youth Camp for their assistance in this search.”
Robak left his vehicle at the Big Lake Youth Camp near Sisters, Oregon, and began the hike around noon on June 30, police said. At 4:30 p.m., he took photos from the summit of Mount Washington and sent them to family and friends via his cell phone.
Robak was expected back at the camp at 8 p.m. When he failed to arrive, camp staff members climbed part of the trail and made numerous attempts to contact him via his cell phone. They then called the authorities for help.
The search-and-rescue operation — which included helicopters and efforts to obtain location information from Robak’s cell phone — lasted all day July 1 and, after a nighttime break, resumed early July 2. Robak’s body was spotted by an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter team that afternoon.
Robak appeared to have been familiar with the area and the challenges in mountain climbing.
Robak had climbed the 7,795-foot (2,376-meter) peak of Mount Washington before, KVTZ television news reported, citing police. Robak also posted a photo on Facebook of himself climbing the nearby South Sister mountain peak.
He had worked at Big Lake Youth Camp, located 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Sisters, Oregon, in the Willamette National Forest, for the previous eight summers, according to GleanerNow, the news magazine for the Adventist Church’s North Pacific Union Conference, whose territory includes Oregon.
People who knew Robak voiced shock and grief.
“Over 50,000 Pathfinders know and love Brian for the part he played at the 2014 Forever Faithful International Camporee,” camporee director Ron Whitehead told GleanerNow.
“Brian had a love for Christ that was extra special,” Whitehead said. “He used his acting gifts to present Nebuchadnezzar at the 2014 international camporee. For weeks leading up to the Oshkosh main stage program, Brian and I would pray often for God to bless him and the Daniel Bible story. Brian always gave his best. He never gave God less than 101 percent. Brian was forever faithful.”
Big Lake Youth Camp described Robak as “a much-loved member of the Big Lake Youth Camp family” on its Facebook page, and it thanked well-wishers for “all your expressions of care and concern for our staff.”
“Join us as we continue to lift up Brian’s family and friends in our prayers,” it said.
Robak, who made several promotional videos for Big Lake Youth Camp, graduated from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas with a film degree in 2010 and appeared as an extra in several movies, including “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” and “Jason Bourne,” according to his profile on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Robak most recently worked as an assistant at Lola Pictures, a Las Vegas-based film production company.
“We are at a loss finding out our beloved assistant Brian Robak did not make it back from his hike,” Lola Pictures said on Facebook. “Rest in peace little buddy.”
Other well-wishers offered condolences on Big Lake Youth Camp’s Facebook page.
“Oh Big Lake! So sorry for your loss,” said Rebecca Hawks Gerling, a parent from Oakridge, Oregon. “My daughter said he was the funniest guy and so much fun. She’s really sad. She can’t believe it.”
“Our daughter also talked about how funny and kind Brian was,” wrote Cecily Geschke. “So very sad. We’re sending our prayers to you all.”
A number of other Adventist summer camps also expressed sympathy.
“The staff of Sunset Lake Camp are mourning with you tonight,” wrote David Yeagley, director of the camp in the state of Washington. “We share your grief and pray that God’s peace and comfort will be poured out on your team.”