Staff Member Killed When Tree Falls At Camp Tawonga

4:30 PM: A staff member at a Jewish summer camp near Yosemite National Park died and as many as 20 people were injured this morning when a tree fell, according to Cal Fire and the camp’s executive director.

Annais Rittenberg, a Camp Tawonga staff member, was killed when a tree fell at the campfire circle outside the camp’s dining hall, executive director Ken Kramarz wrote in a letter sent to parents this afternoon.

Rittenberg was about to enter her senior year at the University of California at Santa Cruz, school spokesman Guy Lasnier said. She was an environmental studies major affiliated with Porter College, he said.

She worked at the KZSC campus radio station, he said. Rittenberg started school in 2010 and was due to graduate next spring, he said.

According to Rittenberg’s Facebook page, she is from New York, where she attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. She lists “counselor at Camp Tawonga” as one of her jobs on her online profile.

The accident occurred at about 8:30 a.m. at Camp Tawonga, which is located at 31201 Mather Road in Tuolumne County outside of Yosemite.

Campers were inside the nearby dining hall having breakfast when the incident occurred, Kramarz said in the letter.

Four other adult staff members were taken to area hospitals. A Cal Fire spokesman said late this morning that a total of 20 people were injured.

None of the young campers were hurt, Kramarz said.

The campers were taken away from the area, and camp therapists are working with grief experts to help the camp community cope with the incident.

Generators are providing power at the camp today because part of the tree that fell struck a PG&E power line, Kramarz said.

He said more information would be sent to all camp families at 6 p.m.

Gail Witzlsteiner, spokeswoman for Sonora Regional Medical Center in Mondesto, said two female camp counselors were transported to that hospital with minor injuries. One is a 20-year-old with injuries to both arms and the other is a 21-year-old with back pain, she said.

Two other female camp counselors were transported to Doctors Medical Center and Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, she said.

Early this afternoon, Camp Tawonga staff members were calling campers’ families from the camp’s San Francisco office to provide the latest information, Jewish Federation of the East Bay spokesman Kevin Vickery said.

There are between 250 and 300 campers and 150 staff members on site during each session at the sleep-away camp, Vickery said.

The federation is an Oakland-based Jewish organization that funds scholarships to send Bay Area students to the camp.

Sasha Lekach/Jamey Padojino, Bay City News

1:40 PM: Twenty people were injured when a tree fell onto a dining hall at a Jewish summer youth camp near Yosemite National Park this morning, Cal Fire spokesman Dennis Mathisen said.

The tree fell around 8:30 a.m. at Camp Tawonga, located at 31201 Mather Road in Tuolumne County outside of Yosemite, Mathisen said.

At least four people were taken to area hospitals—none of them children, said Gail Witzlsteiner, a spokeswoman for Sonora Regional Medical Center in Mondesto.

She said one person is unaccounted for.

Two female camp counselors were transported to Sonora Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. One is a 20-year-old with injuries to both arms and the other is a 21-year-old with back pain, Witzlsteiner said.

Two other camp counselors were transported to Doctors Medical Center and Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, she said.

Jayne Jergentz, a business development coordinator at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, confirmed there was a patient sent to that hospital but could provide additional details.

Memorial Medical Center spokesman Craig Baize said an adult patient was airlifted to that hospital.

Camp Tawonga’s offices are based in San Francisco, and staff there have been in touch with the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, federation spokesman Kevin Vickery said.

The federation is an Oakland-based Jewish organization that funds scholarships to send Bay Area students to the camp, Vickery said.

Vickery said staff at the camp’s San Francisco office said no children were injured or killed this morning.

He said just before 1 p.m. that Camp Tawonga staff had started calling campers’ families from the San Francisco office to provide the latest information.

There are between 250 and 300 campers and 150 staff members on site during each session at the sleep-away camp, Vickery said.

Cal Fire is assisting the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office with the incident, Mathisen said.

Jamey Padojino, Bay City News

12:49 PM: Twenty people were injured when a tree fell onto a dining hall at Jewish summer youth camp near Yosemite National Park this morning, Cal Fire spokesman Dennis Mathisen said.

The tree fell onto the dining hall around 8:30 a.m. at Camp Tawonga, located at 31201 Mather Road in Tuolumne County outside of Yosemite, Mathisen said.

It is not clear whether the injured are adults or children, Mathisen said.

He could not confirm reports that one person had been killed.

Cal Fire is assisting the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office, Mathisen said.

Multiple patients have been transported to hospitals, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Camp Tawonga’s offices are based in San Francisco.

Jamey Padojino, Bay City News

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  • Kortney Eichenberger Malkin

    The tree did NOT fall on the dining hall. It fell on a camp fire circle. No kids were in the area. No kids saw. One person died, and 4 were injured (not 20!)

  • Kortney Eichenberger Malkin

    The tree did NOT fall on the dining hall. It fell on a camp fire circle. No kids were in the area. No kids saw. One person died, and 4 were injured (not 20!)