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Boyfriend Of Hiker: She ‘Died Doing What She Loved’

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Paul Kasemir and Makana Von Gortler (credit: Paul Kasemir)

Paul Kasemir and Makana Von Gortler (credit: Paul Kasemir)

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Searchers found the bodies of 53-year-old Dr. Michael Von Gortler and his 20-year-old daughter Makana Saturday morning on Missouri Mountain near Buena Vista.

On Monday the Chaffee County coroner said they both died from head and neck injuries due to a fall.

Makana was studying ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She was going to start her junior year in the fall. CBS4’s Kathy Walsh talked to her boyfriend, Paul Kasemir, about his loss. He said Makana and her father had a tradition of hiking together.

“Makana’s first love, probably I think, was the mountains,” Kasemir said.

Kasemir said he takes some comfort knowing his girlfriend died in a place she loved and doing what she loved.

“I guess it’s the best way it could have happened. If they’re going to die they should not need to suffer,” he said.

“Knowing that she died doing exactly what she loved the most — it’s probably the best way any of us could go.”

The father and daughter team were hiking on Missouri Mountain on June 22. They were climbing the 14er after spending some time in Telluride.

Kasemir believes they were looking for an adventure and has a theory as to what happened.

“Her dad tends to go off trail. So he was like, ‘Let’s find a different way down.’ They slipped and fell off a cliff.”

Officials say they may never know what truly caused the fall. The bodies were found in rocky and steep terrain about 500 feet above the main trail. They were spotted from a helicopter 5 days after they were reported missing.

Kasemir said he will remember Makana for her goodness.

“She gathered people and friends effortlessly and we want to propagate that; we want to make it into a big wave of happiness that spreads through everyone,” he said.

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