Falling Tree Kills Counselor From New York at Jewish Summer Camp

Annais Rittenberg Dies in Freak Accident at Camp Tawonga

Deadly Day: Annais Rittenberg, a camp couselor from New York, died when a tree fell through a dining hall at a summer camp in northern California.
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Deadly Day: Annais Rittenberg, a camp couselor from New York, died when a tree fell through a dining hall at a summer camp in northern California.

By Anne Cohen

Published July 03, 2013.
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A Jewish summer camp counselor from New York was killed and several others injured when a 70-foot tall black oak tree fell outside a dining hall at the camp near Yosemite National Park in northern California.

Annais Rittenberg, 21, a “beloved member of the Camp Tawonga staff,” was killed and four others injured when the massive tree toppled on the camp grounds, Camp Tawonga officials said in a letter to parents.

“I’ve lost a beautiful child through that tree,” Rittenberg’s mother, Penny Kreitzer, told the Los Angeles Times. “I wish the tree had fallen on Saturday when no one was there.”

Annais Rittenberg
Annais Rittenberg

Rittenberg attended the University of California at Santa Cruz where she was to be a senior this year, according to the campus spokesperson, NBC reported.

On her Facebook page, Rittenberg listed that she was originally from New York and had attended the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

She was returning for her second straight summer as an arts counselor at Camp Tawonga, which combined her loves for photography and nature.

“This was a child who was so vibrant,” Kreitzer told the Times. “I can’t even tell you.”

A Cal Fire spokesman, Daniel Berlant, posted on Twitter that emergency crews were responding to a “mass casualty” event on Wednesday at Camp Tawonga, with 20 reported injuries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Authorities said there was little anyone could have done to prevent the tragedy.

“There was nothing to indicate there was anything wrong with this tree,” Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Oliver told the San Jose Mercury-News. “Even to look at the existing tree trunk, there is still nothing wrong. Basically, it was a freak accident, as (far as) we can tell.”

Gregg Rubenstein, director of finance for the camp, told The Associated Press that the staff was still assessing the situation but no campers were among the injured.

That point was underscored in the email to parents with the subject in all capital letters: “EVERY CHILD AT CAMP IS FINE,” the Los Angeles Times reported.


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