Omar Awaida, 13, of Long Beach, died Wednesday, March 26, at a Fresno hospital. His death was the result of injuries he sustained after falling approximately 300 feet on Saturday, March 22, near Panther Creek on the Middle Fork Trail in Sequoia National Park.
Awaida, a seventh-grader at Marshall Academy of Arts in East Long Beach, was on an overnight camping trip to the Panther Creek area with his two brothers, ages 15 and 25. According to an incident report compiled by Sequoia National Park rangers, on the last day of the group’s trip, the victim was attempting to hike down to the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River in the vicinity of the Panther Creek drainage.
The Panther Creek campsites are located three miles east of the trailhead of the popular Middle Fork Trail. The trailhead, where campers and hikers park to access the trail, is approximately two miles from Hospital Rock.
Apparently, Awaida slipped while negotiating the steep terrain during his descent to the Kaweah River and took a tumbling fall, striking his head and suffering severe trauma. Other hikers at the scene were able to reach the injured victim at 9:30 a.m.; the NPS dispatcher received an emergency call for help at 12:07 p.m.
A rescue team, under the direction of park rangers, located the victim and called for a Highway Patrol helicopter to extricate the injured youth from the treacherous hillside above the river. By 3 p.m., the rescue team had secured the patient, and he was hoisted into the hovering helicopter.
Awaida, who suffered a major head injury, was airlifted to the trauma center at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. After remaining in a coma for four days, he was pronounced dead on March 26.