PRATT--Tuttle Creek State Park ranger Luke D. Nihart was killed early on Saturday, June 26, in an ATV accident while working at the park. Nihart, 32, of rural St. George, was working through the night at the park, which was full of campers attending the four-day Country Stampede music concert event.

Nihart had been with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks for 10 years, starting at with a short stint at El Dorado State Park. He spent most of his career as a park ranger at Tuttle Creek State Park, near Manhattan. He was awarded the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Award of Valor in 2005 for his role in a harrowing midnight rescue of stranded boaters on Tuttle Creek Reservoir during a severe storm. Nihart also received the Kansas Recreation and Parks Service Award in 2003 and 2004. He started the annual Youth and Disabled Spring Turkey Hunts at Tuttle Creek State Park, passing on his love for the outdoors. He married Keri Lynn Herrman on April 26, 2003, and they had two children, Hunter and Brooke.

All KDWP staff, and anyone who enjoyed Kansas state parks and the outdoors will miss Luke. He exemplified what a park ranger should be, working long hours to ensure park visitors were safe and enjoying their stay and willingly risking his own life to save others.

Funeral services for Luke will be held at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, July 1, 2010 at the Wamego Sports Complex, Highway 24 and Columbian Road just West of Wamego. Luke will lie in-state beginning at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday at the Stewart Funeral Home, where the family will greet friends during a visitation from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Burial will follow in Admantha Cemetery, south of Westmoreland. Memorials are suggested to the Nihart Children Education Fund, and may be left in care of the Stewart Funeral Home, P.O. Box 48, 66547.