Youth camp staffer killed by giant oak tree near Yosemite

Youth camp staffer killed by giant oak tree near Yosemite
Camp Tawonga, a youth camp outside of Yosemite National Park, is shown. A camp staffer died and several others were injured when an oak tree fell at the camp. (Maggie Beck / Associated Press)

One staff member from Camp Tawonga near Yosemite National Park was killed and four others were injured Wednesday morning by a massive oak tree that fell.

Officials from the San Francisco-based Jewish camp identified the staff member as Annais Rittenberg in a letter emailed to parents.


The tree "spontaneously fell" just outside of the camp's dining hall near a campfire circle about 8:30 a.m., according to police and an email sent to parents Wednesday afternoon. Four staff members – Lizzie Moore, Cara Sheedy, Juliet Ulibarri and Anya Schultz – were taken to hospitals, according to the email.

No children were injured, a point underscored in the email to parents with the subject in all capital letters: "EVERY CHILD AT CAMP IS FINE."

The camp houses up to 300 children and 160 staff members, though it's unclear how many were on the 160-acre grounds at the time of the incident. Campers were inside the dining hall when the tree fell, said Jennifer Rosenberg, whose daughter is an employee at the camp.

"She said it sounded like an earthquake, and then a big dust cloud," Rosenberg said.

Rangers from the U.S. Forest Service and firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection were busy cutting up and removing the tree Wednesday afternoon, officials said. The tree was described as a 3- to 4-foot-wide oak tree.

When the tree toppled over, it knocked down power lines, cutting power to the camp, officials said. Crews had to ground the wires before they could begin working at the scene.

Electric generators are providing power for the time being, according to the email.

Despite the incident, activities continued at the camp Wednesday afternoon, employees and parents said.

The email said that all the campers are "doing well" and are participating in camp activities.

“Our on-site staff therapists are working closely with first responder grief experts to help care for our community in this difficult time,” said the email from camp Executive Director Ken Kramarz.

Camp Tawonga is a youth camp set in the middle fork of the Tuolumne River in the Stanislaus National Forest outside of Yosemite National Park.