A Colorado community is mourning the loss of local television anchor Don Ward, who died at 55 while hiking in the mountains on Monday.
CBS affiliate KKTV in Colorado Springs announced the sad news on Monday night, writing that it is believed he died from a heart attack but no official cause of death has been announced yet.
"It is with heavy hearts we have some tragic news to share at 11 News," the station wrote. "11 News anchor Don Ward passed away unexpectedly on Monday, doing what he loved while hiking in the mountains."
His KKTV co-anchor, Dianne Derby, tried to hold back tears as she discussed his loss on Monday's broadcast.
"I'm devastated to share this news with our community, and I am deeply heartbroken for his family and his friends," she said. "I am shocked, and I can't believe he's not going to be by my side any more.
"He is the person I spent more time with than anyone, and I have affectionately called him my 'Donner' and my work husband for years. He is by far one of the most talented journalists I have ever known and he has taught our newsroom so much."
The Park County Coroner's office stated that he died near the summit of Mount Cameron near Alma and that his death is not considered suspicious, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Ward had been with KKTV since 2006 after starting his career as a broadcaster in 1988. He was a longtime fixture in the local community, graduating from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs and then earning his degree at the University of Colorado.
"I couldn’t have expected 31 years ago when I was getting started, that I would end up with a main anchor job in my hometown," Ward told the Colorado Springs Gazette in a recent interview. "It’s an honor to serve the community where I grew up. My very first job was at Baskin-Robbins at Flintridge and Academy when I was 16. I have a feeling this will be my last job, so it’s full circle in Colorado Springs."
Ward was an avid hiker who posted on his Facebook page on Sunday that he was taking a couple days off to "hike some 14-ers," which refers to a mountain peak that has an elevation of at least 14,000 feet.
Viewers expressed their condolences in the comments of Ward's final post.
"Our favorite news anchor in Colorado Springs, a class act and stand up guy!" one person wrote. "Missed by all! Condolences to your family, and really to everyone. Gone way too soon. This really makes me sad. To his family, find peace and joy knowing that Don touched so many people!!"
"So sad to hear Don has passed!" another wrote. "I’m in shock. Loved all his travel photos and music he shared."
Ward's colleagues also shared their heartbreak at his loss.
"We are gutted, we are rudderless, we are heartbroken," KKTV reporter Spencer Wilson tweeted. "Wish I had the right words to say, but everyone knows Don was our best eulogizer. We can not explain how deep this hurts us, but if you were lucky enough to know him, you already know. We will miss you, TV’s Don Ward."
"It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that my friend, colleague, and co-anchor Don Ward died today while hiking," KKTV meteorologist Brian Bledsoe tweeted. "I am shocked, saddened, and his family is in my thoughts and prayers. Don and I used to hike Waldo Canyon (before it burned) and Pikes Peak together #RIPDon."