RIVERSIDE – A rock climber who died in a fall in Joshua TreeNational Park in San Bernardino County was identified Monday as a 67-year-old Riverside man.
Curtis Woodrow Stark II was pronounced dead at the scene of the fall around 4:40 p.m. Sunday, according to the coroner’s office in Riverside County.
A second climber, 44-year-old Alfred Kuok, remains hospitalized with injuries he suffered when Stark struck him as he fell from a rock face.
The men were climbing in an area called the Great Burrito — a nearly 200-foot vertical rock formation near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail — when the lead climber appeared to weaken, said the park’s spokesman Joe Zarki.
Stark, who was not wearing a helmet, tried to descend but slipped and fell, Zarki said.
The bolts and clips he set up to help stop him from falling “all failed,” and he struck Kuok, whose safety protection eventually stopped his fall, the spokesman said.
“The first person continued to fall, suffered severe head injuries and died at the scene,” Zarki said.
Two local firefighters from Joshua Tree who were climbing in the area helped lower Kuok from the wall.
Kuok, who is from Claremont, suffered back pain, a few broken ribs andpossible internal injuries, Zarki said.
Four park service rangers and nine search-and-rescue personnel responded to the scene, and a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter airlifted Kuok out of the park to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, according to Zarki.
Joshua Tree National Park is a world-renowned climbing location, with thousands of climbing routes.
Zarki said there are rarely fatalities in the park.
“We certainly caution people, if they are going to engage in climbing, that they have proper training and proper equipment,” Zarki said.