Memorial honors life, sacrifice of Larimer County ranger who drowned at Horestooth

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A memorial has been dedicated to the Larimer County Natural Resources ranger who accidentally drowned at Horsetooth Reservoir last fall.

Brendan Unitt, 27, died Aug. 20 while responding to boaters in distress on Horsetooth Reservoir during a wind storm. 

A memorial honoring Unitt’s sacrifice and service was dedicated by Larimer County staff and Unitt’s family last week. The memorial, which includes a bronze plaque and ranger hat, is located on a granite boulder below the flagpole at the Horsetooth Area Information Center, 4200 W. County Road 38. 

The ranger hat on the memorial represents the “unwavering service of park rangers everywhere,” according to a Larimer County Department of Natural Resources news release. “The Ranger hat is a meaningful symbol of the passion, dedication, and ultimate sacrifice Ranger Brendan Unitt gave in service to our community.”

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A memorial at Horsetooth Reservoir has been dedicated to Larimer County Natural Resources Ranger Brendan Unitt, who died while trying to respond to respond to boaters in distress Aug. 20, 2020.

Unitt began serving as a boat ranger with Larimer County Natural Resources about six months before his death in August 2020. Evidence indicates that Unitt intentionally beached his patrol boat to check on boat-in campers when a request for assistance came in regarding a rescue of two boaters in distress, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith previously said.

The most likely scenario is, when the call for assistance came in, a strong gust of wind blew Unitt’s patrol boat away from shore. Unitt then took off his personal floatation device, or life vest, to go after it, knowing that if he got in the water with the flotation device that it would inflate, essentially disabling him from being able to retrieve his boat.

Trevor Knight, a corporal in the department’s patrol division and Unitt’s supervisor, previously said if he had to describe Unitt in one word, it would be “selfless.”

“We will never forget Brendan for his energetic passion for life, desire to serve others and his contagious positive attitude, His selfless dedication to others is what it means to be a Ranger,” Horsetooth District Manager Mark Caughlan said in a news release. “This memorial represents Brendan’s spirit of service to others, and he will now be among us into perpetuity.”

More:Larimer County honors boat ranger who drowned at Horsetooth Reservoir

Coloradoan reporter Miles Blumhardt contributed to this report.

Sady Swanson covers public safety, criminal justice, Larimer County government and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.