Ray Caruso said his son, Gavin, has always been spontaneous.
“He would just get up and go,” Ray Caruso said. “He would just call me one day and say, ‘Hey, I’m in LA.’”
It was that spirit that brought Gavin Caruso from his home in Illinois to Colorado to visit his father in Highlands Ranch last week. Father and son got to hang out over two days and grab some beers before Ray Caruso had to travel out of state.
“I didn’t know he was here until he called me on Father’s Day,” Ray Caruso said. “He just showed up and said, ‘Hey, here I am, I came to surprise you!’”
It’s time together that, in the wake of the tragedy that followed, Ray Caruso will always cherish.
“It really has helped, his last two acts,” Ray Caruso said. “Him coming out to surprise me and spend some time with me, and helping his girlfriend when they were up on that mountain.”
Gavin Caruso, 23, was formally identified by the Boulder County Coroner’s Office as the hiker who died Wednesday after a 30-foot fall near the South Boulder Peak while trying to help his hiking partner.
Sheriff’s officials said Caruso and his 19-year-old girlfriend were hiking when they became lost and stranded just after 7 p.m. near the summit during an evening thunderstorm.
“They had gotten lost and called for help, and they decided to get to a place where they might be able to be seen,” Ray Caruso said. “He got down to a certain point and then she started to come down.”
Ray Caruso said his son’s girlfriend remembers slipping as Gavin Caruso was waiting below.
“He went to catch her, and they both fell together.”
Both Gavin Caruso and his girlfriend were evacuated by litter and airlifted. Early Thursday, Gavin Caruso died at the hospital from an apparent head injury sustained in the fall.
Ray Caruso said his son’s girlfriend was seriously injured but is recovering, and he was able to talk to her and spend some time at the hospital with her on Friday.
Ray Caruso couldn’t bear to hear all of the details of what happened, but said of his son’s final moments, “I think that he saved her.”
On Tuesday, Ray Caruso and Gavin’s two sisters were on the road, making their way to the service in Illinois, where Gavin had worked in marketing and media as well as doing some deejaying.
“He was a good friend, a good brother,” Ray Caruso said. “He was always going and having fun, doing something different, trying new experiences.
“He knew how to live, and he helped others see it.”