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Family mourns camp counselor killed by tree near Yosemite

Much separated Adam Rittenberg from his younger sister Annais, who was killed Wednesday at a summer camp near Yosemite National Park.

Annais, 21, went to the University of California, Santa Cruz and liked going to the annual desert festival Burning Man.

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Adam concedes that he's more straightlaced, even cautious.

"She was a free spirit," said Adam, reached by phone Wednesday in Chicago. "But in some ways, she still did live a full life."

Annais' brother described her as popular and friendly. Working outdoors at the camp, he said, made her happy, even euphoric.

"She was realizing that the environment and nature was her calling," he said.

Annais Rittenberg's  life was cut short when a tree "spontaneously fell" Wednesday morning outside the dining hall at Camp Tawonga, according to police and camp officials. Four staff members were also injured at the Jewish-identified camp, but no children were harmed.

After hearing of his sister's death from his mother, Adam said, he called their father, who was traveling in Moscow on business.

"He's hysterical," said Adam, explaining that his father and sister were very close. Like Annais, their father took a liking to the outdoors.

"Jewish camp was his life as a teenager -- it turned his life around," Adam said.

As the reality set in about his sister's sudden death, Adam reflected on how the horizon has suddenly changed for his family.

His wife is pregnant and the baby is due in October, he said. Before returning to college in the fall, Rittenberg was going to visit him in Chicago to paint her future nephew's nursery.

"It's so sad that that's not going to happen," Adam said.

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Twitter: @mattthamiltonn

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