Daniel Preddy Carbonaro, 27, a much-loved son of Woodstock who’d made California his home in recent years, went missing at 2:20 a.m. Sunday, December 18 on the edge of the Mojave Desert. He and his room-mate and best friend Chris Rice, left their hotel room in Randsburg that moonless night, riding together on a friend’s dune buggy. Earlier in the day Dan had a cell conversation with his girlfriend, mentioning a plan to zip up to nearby Cuddeback Dry Lake Bed, and return within an hour. He was reported by all who knew him to have never been happier in his life. The desert was cold, dipping below freezing. They took no provisions, water, cell-phones, or extra clothing. Four days later a swelling search-party consisting of family members, loved ones and friends, as well as search and rescue workers, and an outpouring of locals, finally discovered the vehicle and the bodies of the young men, a quarter of a mile below a cliff’s edge.
Daniel’s mother, Vasant Elizabeth Rechtschaffen, who raised her three children in Woodstock, searched tirelessly with Daniel’s older sister, Mia Nathanson, his younger brother Eli Rechtschaffen, and Dan’s girlfriend Serena Berry. Dan’s father Robert Carbonaro, who operated a guitar shop in Woodstock in the 1980s, explored other perilous areas, riddled with half-concealed abandoned silver mines, from dawn until well past dark. #findchrisanddan attracted hundreds of followers on Twitter and nearly 900 people joined the “Friends of Chris Rice and Dan Carbonaro” page on Facebook; hundreds of cellphone calls were exchanged, and a blizzard of e-mails kept a far-flung tribe abreast of the desperate search which included “remote viewing” by noted psychics. On the second day, Vasant Rechtschaffen still found the search for her son and his friend woefully under-manned. Calling every newspaper and TV she could locate, that official presence quickly changed, as with national coverage, millions held their breath, praying for a miracle.
“Daniel was always on something moving fast,” Vasant, recalls. “He slept with the first surf board he was given — he loved it so much. His first bike? Stood on its kickstand at his bed. I was afraid he’d lay it in the sheets beside him. He taught me to ski — not the other way round. Then came the mountain biking, then extreme mountain biking in body armor, helmet, and padding. I saw him go off jump in Vermont and…that was tough to watch. But he was ecstatic and he was truthful. To make matters worse he claimed to have learned such truthfulness from me. He said, ‘Mom, this is who I am.’ When I heard my son say that — I had to honor it. Awful as it is, I honor it still.”
Daniel was a loving and generous brother to his sisters Mia Nathanson, Heather Carbonaro, his brother Eli Rechtschaffen, and his beloved step brothers Daniel and Rahm Rechtschaffen. He was joyful, loyal friend to a band of Woodstock youths — male and female.
After leaving Woodstock Dan worked in cabinetry with his father, a gifted guitar builder, as well as in restaurants where he was loved, and at a local bike shop — a trade nearer his soul. He was huge hit assisting his mother in the jewelry trade. Really anything to which he turned his hand, he succeeded. But jobs were a means to an end, and the end was speed. He met the love of his life, the beautiful Serena Berry, who fell into dirt-biking with him. Dan spent nearly all of his last three blissful years with her — together with his adored mixed-breed dog, DJ. They had the time of their lives.
Every generation appropriates a word from the language and makes it their own.
For the likes of Daniel that word would have had to be “awesome” — a mighty term which has been used to describe many a-less-than-mighty thing. Tragically, the all but incomprehensible deaths of Daniel Carbonaro and Chris Rice have returned the word to its actual meaning. The lives of Chris and Daniel were — are — and will forever be truly awesome.
Daniel is survived by his mother Vasant Rechtschaffen; father Robert Carbonaro; siblings, Mia Nathanson, Heather Carbonaro, Eli Rechtschaffen; grandmothers Elizabeth Preddy, Florence Carbonaro, and numerous loving cousins. A memorial took place for Daniel in Elings Park, Santa Barbara on December 28. A local memorial for him is still in the planning stages. His family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to a Memorial Fund to bear Daniel’s name c/o Kim Rechtschaffen 901 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105.