Berkeley High grad and Camp Tawonga counselor dies in river near Yosemite

A Berkeley High graduate and Camp Towanga counselor died in a drowning at a river outside Yosemite National Park on Thursday, the camp said in a post on Facebook.

Eli Kane was a summer counselor at the 95-year-old camp, and the accident occurred at a swimming hole away from camp on a day off, according to the post.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragedy," the post read. "Eli was a bright light, beautiful spirit and an adored Tawongan. ... Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with Eli's family, and we are grieving with them. He was a long-time Tawonga camper ... and a truly incredible counselor."

The Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office said personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and the sheriff's office responded to an emergency call on the Tuolumne River at Cherry Lake Road at 12:52 p.m. on July 15.

Deputy Niccoli Sandelin with the sheriff's office said the victim was with a group at a swimming hole, and when fire and medical help arrived, people were performing CPR. Paramedics took over and determined that the victim was dead.

Camp Tawonga CEO Jamie Simon told KTVU in a statement that at the time of the drowning, campers weren't present; however, several other staff members were.

Kane graduated from Berkeley High School in 2019 before attending the University of Michigan, according to a story in J Weekly.

Kane was a friend of Berkeley High graduate Ross Schultz, who died recently in a car accident in Lake Tahoe along with Dixie Lewis, another graduate from the East Bay school, according to Berkeleyside.

Eleven people have drowned in lakes and rivers in Tuolumne County since the start of summer, Sandelin said.

"I would say that just off my knowledge from previous years, we're significantly higher than we have been in the past," he said. "It has been on every waterway we have in Tuolumne."

Sandelin warned the region's lakes and rivers are often ice-cold and have dangerous currents.

"It's a completely different type of swimming," he said. "The temperature is different, the waters are different. ... You get a lot of snow melt pouring into these rivers. They're generally colder than they look like they should be. Life jackets. We don't hear if people are drowning if they wear life jackets."

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