Campers killed by tree limb in Yosemite were teenage boys

AP News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2015 5:21 PM
Campers killed by tree limb in Yosemite were teenage boys

TUSTIN, Calif. (AP) — Two young campers killed by a falling tree limb in Yosemite National Park have been identified as 14-year-old boys from Orange County in Southern California.

The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office identified the boys as Justin Lee of Irvine and Dragon Kim of Tustin.

It appears the boys were crushed to death, Assistant Coroner Andrea Stewart said. They died immediately, she said.

Kim was an incoming sophomore at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, a public charter school. Lee was set to be a freshman there. Both boys attended Pioneer Middle School and played water polo.

The Orange County Register reports that Dragon's parents, Grace and Daniel Kim, posted a letter to their son's water polo teammates. In it, they thanked the boys for "taking him onto your team and loving him back" and said that their hearts are "forever broken."

The parents then added a note to their son: "Dragon, we love you so much. Thank you for bringing so much love, laughter, and music to our lives. You are our precious son, and you will live on with us."

The boys were sleeping in a tent when a limb fell from a black oak tree about 5 a.m. Friday in the Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley, parks spokesman Scott Gediman has said. The campground is one of the park's most popular, with a view of Half Dome.

Park rangers alerted by a 911 call arrived to find the boys dead.

The park is investigating what caused the limb to topple.

"This is a tragic loss," said Mark Eliot, spokesman for Tustin Unified School District in Orange County, which is about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Eliot said the district will have grief counselors available at Pioneer Middle School and the high school it feeds into as students register this week and next for the new school year.

Last month, an 85-foot-tall tree fell in a Pasadena, California, park, injuring eight children. The tree had root problems, was leaning and may have absorbed a heavy load of water from a recent storm, according to an arborist's report released Thursday. Some roots were girdled, meaning they were twisted around the main stem of the tree instead of spreading out.

In 2012, a Yosemite concession employee died when his tent cabin was hit by a falling limb.