‘Doing something he loved’; Family identifies dead hiker as former SUU athletics trainer

Finish line chairman Ben Davidson prepares to give high-fives to approaching runners at the Cedar City Half Marathon, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 9, 2018 | Photo by Danny Stewart and courtesy of Cedar Half Marathon, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — A 70-year-old Cedar City man who died while hiking with a group in Kane County earlier this week has been identified by family members as a retired Southern Utah University athletic trainer.

Ben Davidson was the athletic trainer at Southern Utah University from 1979 to 2013 and also the longtime head athletic trainer for the Utah Summer Games. | Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers Association, St. George News

Family members posted on social media Friday night that Ben Davidson, a former athletic trainer at SUU who was well known among the university and the local community, had collapsed and died Wednesday while hiking in Kane County.

“While out on a hiking and rafting trip down the Escalante River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, our dad, Ben Davidson collapsed suddenly and died,” James Davidson, Ben Davidson’s son, posted to Facebook Friday.

The Kane County Sheriff’s Office reported on the incident Thursday. The Sheriff’s Office was alerted by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center Wednesday morning that they had picked up a GPS distress beacon originating within the national recreation area. Specifically, the signal came from the area of a popular trail near the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River.

The Sheriff’s Office and National Park Service responded, as did Classic Aviation per the Sheriff’s Office’s request. The group Davidson has been hiking and rafting with was soon located and Davidson’s body was flown to the county medical examiner and then the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office in Salt Lake City for further investigation.

Davidson was reported to have been in good health before he collapsed.

We are comforted by knowing that he passed doing something he loved,” James Davidson wrote. “Ben’s love and passion for the outdoors was not only in hiking and rafting, but also in his yard work, running or sitting on the swing reading a good book.”

Davidson became an athletic trainer as SUU in 1979 and retired 2013, according to the SUU website.

During this time, he also served as a track and field coach at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level for eight seasons, where athletes under his guidance claimed four NAIA National Championships.

He was the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Most Distinguished Trainer in 1999, and inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2007.

Davidson was added to SUU’s Hall of Fame in 2018.

In addition to his career at SUU, Davidson also served as the head athletic trainer to the Utah Summer Games for 14 years. He was also active in the community, having served on several Cedar City committees in parks and recreation and trails.

During 2018’s Cedar City Half Marathon, Davidson served as the finish line director and stood by to high-five each runner that completed the race.

“You will never meet a man who more faithfully lived his values than Ben. He was a teacher of all things, and his method was simple: he taught by example,” James Davidson wrote. “Rarely was there a time where he would pass on an opportunity to help others within the community. The number of people who called Ben a friend is unimaginable. He will be missed by all.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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