ASPEN, Colo. -- An FDNY paramedic plunged 1,000 feet to his death while descending a notoriously dangerous peak in the Colorado Rockies after choosing not to take a far safer route down the mountain.
The body of Lenny Joyner, 31, was recovered by a helicopter rescue crew at 11,100 feet on North Maroon Peak near Aspen, about 3,000 feet below the summit.
The grim find devastated Fire Department brethren, who had hoped Joyner would be found safe after disappearing Thursday.
"It is horrible, horrific, terrible," said Joyner's buddy and fellow paramedic Matthew Olton, who trained with the Manhattan resident and once saved a woman's life with him. "We were supposed to hang out this week, grab a beer. He was a great medic and a great friend."
Joyner set out for Colorado last week, full of bravado, as he prepared to tackle the strikingly beautiful Maroon Bells mountains - which are also known as the "Deadly Bells" because their loose- rock faces kill mountaineers every year.
"Who flies all the way to Colorado just to climb a mountain?" Joyner asked in a Google+ post on July 16. "This guy! Sure as hell hope HIP covers any rock vs skull issues."
On Thursday, at 10:06 a.m., Joyner posted his longitude and latitude with the message: "Made it! Now for Part 2" - indicating he had reached the summit of 14,156-foot South Maroon Peak.
He walked a traverse route to the top of its 14,014-foot sister, North Maroon Peak, where he signed the summit's log book.
But instead of taking the safer route back down the South Peak, Joyner "was attempting to descend North Maroon Peak," said Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff George Kremer.
Joyner is believed to have added to his risk because "it looks like he got off" the established route on the way down, Kremer said.
The peaks were struck by a violent lightning storm and winds "upward of over 70 miles an hour on the peak," Kremer said.
After Joyner, a six-year department veteran, missed a scheduled shift Sunday at EMS 7 in Chelsea and he stopped returning his parents' text messages, firefighters showed up at his Inwood apartment Monday and were ready to break the door down until the building super let them in.
A rescue operation was then launched by authorities in Aspen on Monday, and Joyner's body was found at around 8:15 a.m. yesterday.
"His life was helping people and having a good time," Joyner's dad, Leonard, said from a funeral home just outside Aspen as he was preparing to have his son's remains cremated.
His parents said the 6-foot-7-inch paramedic was "gentle giant" who fell in love with climbing two years ago but whose real goal was to becoming a firefighter.
"This is such a gorgeous spot, I'm sure he had a spectacular [last] day," his grief-stricken mother, Lucy, told The Post.
Additional reporting by Julia Marsh and Kevin Sheehan