A pair of climbers who died trying to scale a mountainside east of Idyllwild have been identified as Huntington Beach residents, one of them a former Dallas Cowboys football player.
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 NFL tight end who spent four years with the Dallas Cowboys and also had stints with teams including the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.
The Cowboys posted a photo of Escobar on the team’s social media channels Thursday with the caption, “Forever in our hearts.”
He played college football at San Diego State University. He ended his professional football career in the Alliance of American Football.
Escobar is survived by his wife and two young children, according to the Long Beach Fire Department.
Officials indicated that the victims 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 and located the victims 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.