Park staff, community mourn Ranger Margaret Anderson


by KING 5 News

Posted on January 2, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 2 at 7:36 PM

Ranger Margaret Anderson worked at Mt. Rainier National Park for four years before her tragic death Sunday, and in that time she made herself a beloved member of the tight-knit community.

Married to a fellow park ranger and mother to two young children ages 3 and 1, the 34-year-old Anderson lived in Eatonville with her family.

"Just an incredibly nice person, extremely passionate about working for the National Park Service like most employees are, very dedicated to her job, highly trained and highly skilled, highly motivated, excellent law enforcement officer, it's just a horrible horrible loss," said Randy King, Park Superintendent.

Anderson was shot on New Year's Day inside the park as she and a colleague tried to stop a car that had run through a safety check roadblock. The alleged shooter, 24-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes, fled into the park. Barnes was found dead in the park on Monday morning.

Anderson was the youngest of three children, her father, Pastor Paul Kritsch said.

He said his daughter always had an interest in wildlife and the outdoors and wanted to help people and that's what finally led her to being a federal park ranger.

Wait staff at Cruiser’s Café in Eatonville said Anderson was a regular, often bringing in her two girls for some to-go food.

“Everyone is talking about her,” said Patty Wrzesien, waitress at the café. “She was such a sweet sweet lady. We’re all angry at the guy [alleged shooter Benjamin Colton Barnes]. People are worried he’s going to come down off the mountain.”

An Eatonville Police officer was standing guard at the family’s home on Monday. The local fire chief said the family wants their privacy.

Park Ranger Kevin Bacher said park officials have designated personnel to assist Anderson's family, many of whom are traveling to the area from the East Coast. As of Monday morning, Bacher said he did not know what the family's plans for a memorial will be.

On Sunday night, Anderson's body was moved from the park to the Piece County Medical Examiner's Office.

Hundreds of condolences and tributes have been posted online on the Officer Down Memorial Page created in Anderson's memory.

Anderson attended church at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Spanaway.

The pastor opened up the sanctuary this afternoon for anyone who wanted to pray or talk about her death.

Pastor Galen Gallimore said he will be available as long as anyone needs him. The church is located at 26418 Mountain Highway East.

KING 5's Drew Mikkelsen and Jake Whittenberg contributed to this report.