McMinn County man dies in camping accident on Starr Mountain
"He was a good dad, a good husband, a good man; he was a good son, a good brother to his sisters," that's how Robin Ponthier will remember her son-in-law, Michael Shane Chustz, a Louisiana native who fell in love with an East Tennessee girl and the East Tennessee mountains.
"Whenever there's a celebration they went to the mountain; if it was a good day they went to the mountain; if it was a bad day they went to the mountain," Ponthier says.
However, a weekend camping trip to the top of Starr Mountain turned to tragedy Saturday.
"It was just where he found his peace. He just fell in love with it. That night they were sitting there, had the camp fire going. All the guys were sitting there, 'oh we're mountain men,'" Ponthier recalls.
Chustz decided to leave the group for just a little bit.
"He wanted to walk up to the cliffs which is a few minutes away from where they camp at and watch the sunset," says Ponthier.
That was the last time anyone saw Chustz alive. A few hours later his family called the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and the rescue squad began its search. It wasn't long before the family got the news they'd been dreading.
"They said that he had fallen and they had found his body," Ponthier explains.
Chustz leaves behind two young sons, ages five and 10, and his wife Tiffany. They were just recently married. Now she'll have to plan her husbands funeral just weeks before her sons go back to school, this time without the guidance of their father.
"Remember him as a good, good, good man," cries Ponthier.
Funeral arrangements are in the process of being planned at the Bordwine Funeral Home in Etowah, TN.