BILLINGS, Mont. — A Scottsdale man died Monday in a kayaking accident in Rock Creek, southwest of Red Lodge, officials in south-central Montana say. Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan tells KULR-TV that 68-year-old Thomas Bajo of Scottsdale, Arizona, died Monday afternoon. His body was recovered Tuesday morning.
McQuillan says a friend who was with Bajo said he capsized and hit his head on a rock, causing him to lose consciousness. A second kayaker was able to reach him, but could not pull him to shore. Volunteer searchers spotted Bajo's body at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
McQuillan says Bajo and his friend had kayaked that section of the river on Saturday and that Bajo had more than 20 years of experience as a kayaker.
A Scottsdale physician who died after a Montana kayaking accident was remembered on Wednesday by former co-workers and patients as a caring doctor who befriended and helped hundreds of people during his lifetime.
The body of Thomas Michael Bajo, who would have turned 68 on Wednesday, was found submerged in the waters of Rock Creek in Montana on Tuesday after his kayak hit a rock in the river and overturned on Monday afternoon, according to Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan.
The person who had been kayaking with Bajo and called police said he last saw an unresponsive Bajo floating downstream, McQuillan said.
Several agencies responded and began a search that was suspended at sundown andresumed Tuesday morning before Bajo's body was recovered at 7:15 a.m., McQuillan said. more than 20 years of kayaking experience, McQuillan said.
He had retired from his job as a critical-care physician for Banner Health in Phoenix in 2015 after working there for 30 years, Banner officials said. "Dr. Bajo cared for our most seriously ill patients, as well as giving his time to educate new physicians in training," said Banner Health spokesman David Lozano, in a prepared statement.
"Our physician residents tell us that he played a pivotal role in their medical careers and was instrumental in helping them become the physicians they are today."
'A vision of commitment and caring'
One of those physicians was Dr. Robert Raschke, a critical-care doctor at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, who said Bajo trained him in the mid-1980s when he started at the facility as a medical student.
Raschke said he became friends with Bajo and that the two often went mountain biking or kayaking together. "He cared more about his patients and their families than anybody," Raschke said. "Everyone was shocked when he would be on vacation somewhere at 3 o' clock in the morning and call in to check on a patient."
Raschke said that it wasn't unusual for Bajo to be consoling a family who had lost a loved one even hours after his shift had ended. "He gave us all a vision of commitment and caring that no one had ever really seen before," Raschke said.