By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Richard Crowe, co-founder of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s astronomy program and astronomer-in-residence at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, was killed Sunday in a bizarre Jeep accident near Chinle, Ariz. He was 60.
Crowe and his wife, Debra, were on the mainland for the recent wedding of their older daughter, Ginger Albrecht, in Albuquerque, N.M., their younger daughter, Jasmine Miranda Anderson, said Monday.
“We were all together at my sister’s wedding in Albuquerque, and he and my mother went to Sedona (Ariz.) on a road trip. They were there for about a week,” Anderson said.
While in Sedona, Richard and Debra Crowe took a commercial Jeep tour to Canyon de Chelly. On the return trip, the Jeep went off the edge of a narrow road and rolled end over end down a hillside. Richard Crowe jumped from the Jeep and was struck by the vehicle.
Debra Crowe was treated for minor injuries and released at a nearby hospital.
“She didn’t really understand how badly he was injured,” Anderson said. “It took three hours for the helicopter to come and take them (to the hospital), I think.”
Crowe’s condition worsened and others on the tour initiated CPR while waiting for the medevac chopper to arrive. Medics attempted defibrillation, but he died at the scene. Anderson said the family is “in shock.”
“It’s really hard,” she said. “It’s just totally unexpected and out of the blue. We’re all just pretty shaken up about it and really devastated.”
The Montreal-born Crowe earned his doctorate degree from the University of Toronto and was a support scientist for the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope atop Mauna Kea before co-founding UH-Hilo’s astronomy program in 1987 with Bill Heacox, the department’s current chairman.
“He was a very good astronomy teacher and that was his principal job here at UH-Hilo,” Heacox said. “Very well liked by his colleagues, very well liked by his students, won several teaching awards. He’ll be greatly missed.”
Crowe also taught physics at UH-Hilo.
In 2010, Crowe and ‘Imiloa Planetarium Manager Shawn Laatsch were presented with the Taniguchi Award for Innovation in Teaching and Research for using the planetarium to teach introductory astronomy. Heacox said that Crowe spread the gospel of astronomy through his outreach work in the public schools.
“That’s where he did most of his best work, I think,” Heacox said. “He had a portable planetarium that he purchased on a grant from the National Science Foundation and he would take this planetarium around to schools.”
Crowe was active in the community and was a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Hilo Bay. In addition, he played clarinet in the UH-Hilo Orchestra and the Hawaii County Band and sang in the Kanilehua Chorale. County band director Paul Arceo called Crowe a “very committed” musician.
“Actually, when they had the Hamakua County Band, he was the assistant director under (the late) Dave Lorch,” Arceo said. “… Richard’s always been active, singing (and) playing clarinet. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
Tony Adams, a longtime professional composer and musician and close friend of Crowe, said that Crowe was “a very fine musician.”
“He played clarinet very well with the band and practiced determinedly,” Adams said. He added that Crowe was also a “very good pianist.”
Adams said that as a person the outgoing Crowe “never knew a stranger.”
Anderson, a singer, violinist and guitarist, said she became a musician because of her dad’s influence and support.
“He was a great musician and taught me so many things about music, and I loved to perform with him,” she said.
Other survivors include stepchildren Heather Carson and David Craig; father, William Crowe; sisters, Carolyn Ibele and Mary-Ellen Gooch; one niece, three nephews and four step-granddaughters.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.