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'He packed 100 years into those 35 years,' mom says after adventurer son found dead in Hawaii

Craig Pitt of St. Petersburg, shown here in social media post from June 2018, was the victim of his own fearlessness, his mother said. [Facebook]
Craig Pitt of St. Petersburg, shown here in social media post from June 2018, was the victim of his own fearlessness, his mother said. [Facebook]
Published Aug. 6, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Nothing scared Craig Pitt, say those who knew him — not posing for pictures on the edges of cliffs or even scaling Mount Everest.

"Aren't you afraid you're going to crack open your head?" his mother Lisa Caraffi would ask him about his many adventures.

The St. Petersburg man would reply, "You can't worry about those things."

His fearlessness proved to be his demise, she said.

Pitt, 35, was found dead by police at the base of a remote waterfall in Maui on Saturday. He was last seen Wednesday heading out alone for a daytime hike.

Pitt's aunt, Cathy Van Noland, wrote in a Facebook post that it appears he died instantly from a fall from the top of the 300-foot waterfall.

"Everyone that knew him liked him," Caraffi said. "He was such a bright, shining light. His life was short, but boy, oh boy. He packed 100 years into those 35 years."

Pitt was born in San Francisco, where his aunt Theresa would take him for indoor rock climbing. He quickly fell in love with it.

He moved at 13 to Seminole, where he attended Seminole High School, his mother said. He took classes at the University of South Florida. He found success investing "before everyone was doing it" in CBD, the non-euphoric compound found in hemp and marijuana that was declared legal under a federal hemp bill passed last year.

Pitt had homes in St. Petersburg and Colorado. He loved the Rocky Mountains, Caraffi said.

He traveled the world, from Thailand to Nepal, and frequently to Hawaii. He would often return to Florida to see people here, said friend Danielle Faries of Largo.

Pitt wanted to move to Hawaii, Faries said, often staying at the Banana Bungalow Hostel as he had on his most recent trip. He had visited the hostel four or five times in the past year and made food for others when he stayed — donuts in the morning, chili later in the day, said the hostel's manager Azi Piernia. Piernia said Pitt was one of the few guests she ever connected with, a nice and open man always seeking out new adventures.

He had been telling people about a waterfall he wanted to climb and on Wednesday, he set out about noon and parked his car along a highway, Caraffi said.

When he failed to return, Piernia called authorities. He was found dead three days later at the base of the waterfall, the Maui Police Department said

Pitt's family had offered a $10,000 reward and launched a social media campaign in hopes of finding him.

A torrential rain fell the day he went for his climb, Caraffi said. The dirt around the waterfall looked dry and secure, but it wasn't, police told her.

In his travels, Pitt would seek out hostels looking to meet people who would know the good trails.

"That's how he got information, the ins and outs of the area, to save time and meet new people," Caraffi said.

He took his mother on some of his hikes, in Croatia in 2018 and in Utah's Arches National Park for Mother's Day last May.

"They were horrible," she said.

"He was really good about staying slow. He was patient with me. He would say 'C'mon mom, we're going to get out there.' "

Contact Ben Leonard at bleonard@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8421. Follow @Ben___Leonard.

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