HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – A pair of climbers who died trying to scale a mountainside east of Idyllwild were identified Thursday as a man and woman from Huntington Beach, and one of them was a Long Beach firefighter.
Gavin Escobar, 31, and Chelsea Walsh, 33, died about 12:20 p.m. Wednesday near the Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout, southeast of Humber Park, within the San Bernardino National Forest, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Escobar was an off-duty Long Beach firefighter, who joined the agency in February, according to a department Facebook post. Escobar was a former professional football tight end who spent four years with the Dallas Cowboys and also had stints with teams including the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. He played college football at San Diego State University.
Escobar is survived by his wife and two young children, according to the Long Beach Fire Department.
Officials indicated that Escobar and Walsh died while climbing a “rock face,” but no other details were available. It was unknown whether they were seasoned or amateur climbers.
Two witnesses spotted the victims and called 911, managing to get marginal mobile phone reception in the remote area.
According to the Riverside County Fire Department, multiple engine crews and a sheriff’s helicopter crew were sent to the location to mount a search-and-rescue operation.
Firefighters hiked a steep trail, reaching the place where the victims were spotted by 1:20 p.m.
Escobar and Walsh were pronounced dead at the scene.
The matter was turned over to sheriff’s deputies following the discovery.
The investigation is ongoing.