Death and Injuries Plague Eaton Canyon

It's always sad when someone is injured or killed while hiking. In recent years, Eaton Canyon has had more of its share of tragedies. One of the reasons is that many who are attracted to the canyon are not hikers. They are folks who decide to take a stroll to a waterfall. Some of them are young people who ignorantly decide to climb the treacherous canyon walls to get above the first falls, and they fall to their death.

Below is a sampling of news stories of Eaton Canyon follies, accidents, and incidents.

Pasadena Sun

One hiker killed, two safe in Eaton Canyon
August 9, 2012

A teenage hiker from Los Angeles died at Eaton Canyon Natural Area on Wednesday after falling about 120 feet off a trail above the first waterfall, said the Pasadena Fire Department.

The name of the hiker has not been released, pending notification of next of kin, said Ed Winter, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. An autopsy has not been completed.

County firefighters were on scene for another injured hiker when the call came in for the fatal fall around 6:11 p.m., said fire officials. They responded along with Pasadena and Altadena authorities. The hiker was accompanied by other hikers, said Lisa Derderian, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman. This year authorities have seen a high number of injuries and fatalities in Eaton Canyon.

“A lot of social media sites show people how to try and get to the second water fall, which has unpaved and unmarked trails,” Derderian said. “People don’t come dressed for hiking and take for granted what mother nature has in store for people/ They follow what they see [online] and don’t understand the impact.”

In a separate incident, two hikers presumed missing from Eaton Canyon Natural Area on Wednesday walked out of the park on their own, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Searchers spent part of the afternoon seeking two hikers after receiving a tip that they had failed to return from a walk, according to Altadena and Crescenta Valley Station Sheriff’s Sgt. Debra Herman.

Officers later learned the hikers had come out on their own around 5:30 p.m.

-- Adolfo Flores, Times Community News

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Hiker falls 100 feet down Eaton Canyon
Posted:   08/03/2012 06:45:11 PM PDT

Pasadena firefighters rescued a man who fell 100 feet in Eaton Canyon Friday.

The rescue call came in at 11:44 a.m.

Lisa Derderian, spokeswoman for Pasadena Fire Department, said firefighters immediately hiked into the canyon to find the man.

She said the man suffered severe injuries to the chest, hip, femur and head.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter lowered two rescuers to where the injured man was. He was hoisted into the helicopter and taken to a local hospital, according to Derderian.

Los Angeles Times Blogs | L.A. Now

Hiker rescued after fall into Eaton Canyon ravine
June 9, 2012 |  2:38 pm

A 53-year-old man with diabetes suffered a possible punctured lung Saturday when he fell into a ravine while hiking with his family in Eaton Canyon above Pasadena, authorities said.

According to the Pasadena Fire Department, the man tumbled off the side of a canyon and into the ravine, making it difficult for a search and rescue team to find him.

Firefighters said they were notified about the fall at 10:40 a.m. Rescuers found the hiker about 50 minutes later. Authorities, who at first reported that the hiker was a teenager, said the injured man was able to talk to dispatchers on his cellphone, which helped guide searchers to his location.

-- Dan Weikel

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Helicopter rescues injured woman near Eaton Canyon waterfall
By Brian Charles, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/14/2011 08:05:21 PM PDT

ALTADENA - A 59-year-old woman fell near the first waterfall at Eaton Canyon on Sunday and had to be taken by helicopter to Huntington Memorial Hospital, officials said.

Emergency officials did not release the woman's condition.

Sunday's rescue was the latest in a series of accidents, and in two cases fatalities, at Eaton Canyon.

John Jutiyasantayanon, 23, of Montclair was killed Aug. 6. Erwin Molina, 21, was killed Aug. 1.

The fatalities and the injuries have happened near a series of waterfalls popular with hikers.

"The fatalities happened at the second waterfall, but that first waterfall still has rugged terrain," said Lisa Derderian, a Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman.

The Pasadena Fire Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and with Altadena Mountain Rescue helped locate and airlift the woman out of the canyon.

The waterfall is popular with hikers, but it also has the potential to be a dangerous place, officials said.

Molina was killed after losing his footing and falling about 35 feet from the top of Eaton Canyon Falls, the young man landed on some rocks, fire officials said. Jutiyasantayanon fell about 50 feet, then continued sliding down the hillside, officials said.
626-578-6300, ext. 4494

Los Angeles Times Blogs | L.A. Now

Rescues up in Eaton Canyon, where two hikers recently died
August 8, 2011 | 9:05 am

Brian Selva, 21, of Montebello floats in the pool below the waterfall in Eaton Canyon. Two people have died recently attempting to climb the steep cliffs near the waterfall in Angeles National Forest.
Brian Selva, 21, of Montebello floats in the pool below the waterfall in Eaton Canyon. Two people have died recently attempting to climb the steep cliffs near the waterfall in Angeles National Forest. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
Rescues in the Angeles National Forest are already up over the annual average –- the result of heavy crowds, treacherous terrain and swollen waterfalls.

Charles Ballard, a volunteer with the Altadena mountain rescue team, said his team typically conducts 30 to 40 rescues annually, but already has done 48 this year.

Two hikers plunged to their deaths recently in the popular Eaton Canyon section of Angeles National Forest, prompting authorities to urge people to use caution and be wary when climbing near waterfalls.

The area is popular with novice hikers, families with small children and dog walkers because of its gentle trails and refreshing mountain streams. "If they stay on the canyon bottom, it's just boulder hopping. You've got to be careful that you don't twist an ankle," Ballard said. "But if you get off the canyon bottom and try to go around the first falls, that is extremely dangerous." From there, it's a steep, slippery climb up a sheer mountain face. "It's narrow, it's loose and it's treacherous," Ballard said.

Early Saturday, a 23-year-old Montclair man fell from a cliff near one of the falls and later died, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said. A female companion tried to help him but got stuck and was airlifted out by a rescue crew. She had minor injuries.

On July 31, a man lost his footing and fell 35 feet to the rocky canyon bottom. He was taken to a hospital but died a short time later of his injuries. Another man broke his legs when he fell Thursday.

-- Alexandra Zavis

San Gabriel Valley Tribute

Larry Wilson: The lovely and deadly Eaton Canyon Falls
By Larry Wilson, Public Editor
Posted: 08/06/2011 07:09:21 AM PDT

Larry Wilson Blog: IT was a lousy and even tragic week for incautious hikers in Eaton Canyon - more injuries, and more death.

To say that it was ever thus, that people have been falling and getting maimed and killed there in the very steep, very slippery, very rock-slidy place since presumably before Judge Eaton first pulled drinking water for Pasadena out of the place - well, that's cold comfort for victims and their families.

My only perspective on the canyon's dangers these days is as a newsman, since I haven't hiked up there in years. As Yogi Berra said of a St. Louis restaurant, "Nobody goes there anymore - it's too crowded."

The reason so many novice hikers do go there every sweltering summer is the famous waterfall and the cool pool beneath it, half a mile and half an hour's bouldery stroll up from the Mount Wilson Toll Road bridge.

Aside from the crowds, I can't stomach the hallowed old place because of all the awful graffiti on those boulders, and even on the sycamores and the alders, these days. Go tag a building, `bangers - leave nature alone.

But the falls are also a heartbreaking deathtrap - heartbreaking because they don't have to be.

Go, young people. Take a dip. But if you want to stay alive - and falling on hard granite sounds like a really painful death - also take this from an old guy who has been there.

Every story we run is essentially the same. A young hiker is rescued - or a body is pulled out by the Altadena or Sierra Madre search and rescue squads - from the "trail" that runs up around the falls to their south - to your left as you face them, standing by the pool.

That's no trail, guys. It's nothing more than a ridgeline. It's incredibly steep. I know that you can get up it, in your quest to get to the top of the falls, where you might stupidly jump off - don't; the pool's too shallow - or get upstream to the second and other, smaller falls.

But, as with so many ridges in the straight-up San Gabriels, a very young and rugged mountain range, it's way easier to get up than to get down. You scramble and wedge your way there, and then when you want to turn around, you notice that the shale is just kicking away, and that you start to slide, and that gravity is no longer your friend. Guys, I was stuck up on that "trail" once myself, at 13 or 14, for too long. And there but for fortune . . .

So, young hikers, I'm glad that you are getting a taste for the wilderness. Follow your bliss up there, and it will change your life. But accept that there are some rules of the wilds that make sense. Rule No. 1 in Eaton Canyon: There is not a single safe way to get around that first waterfall. Don't try it. Don't let your buddies try it. There's a lot to live for, and dying up on the ridge is a lousy way to go.

Public Editor Larry Wilson's blog is


Hiker Dies After Eaton Canyon Fall
Man the second hiker to die in the area this week
August 6, 2011 | 12:21 p.m. PDT, 

ALTADENA (KTLA) -- A man died today after falling while hiking near a waterfall at Eaton Canyon, the second man this week to die in a fall there, officials said.

Emergency crews responded to the report of the fall about 9:30 a.m., Sheriff's officials said Saturday.

A man and a woman -- neither have yet been identified -- were hiking in the area when the man slipped and fell about 40 feet before a continued slide down a hill.

Search and Rescue workers airlifted the woman from the cliff by helicopter. Officials have not released word if the woman was injured.

Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.

The man, who officials say was in his 20s, was the second man this week to die in a fall near Eaton Canyon. Erwin Molina, 21, died Monday after he fell from a trail near a waterfall in the area, officials said.


Updated: Hiker Dies at Hospital After Fall in Eaton Canyon
A young male hiker died at Huntington Memorial Hospital on Sunday night after falling 35 feet from the first waterfall in Eaton Canyon.
By Dan Abendschein
July 31, 2011

The body of Erwin Molina being airlifted from Eaton Canyon
The body of Erwin Molina being airlifted from Eaton Canyon
Credit courtesy of Pasadena Fire Department
A male hiker died Sunday night from injuries sustained from a 35-foot fall in the Eaton Canyon area, according to Lisa Derderian of the Pasadena Fire Department.

The hiker fell in the first waterfall area, a common area for injured hikers.  He was in critical condition when medical teams reached him, Derderian said, and died in the hospital shortly after being brought there.

The hiker has been identified as 21-year-old Erwin Molina, according to Lt. Cheryl MacWillie of the county coroner's office.  Derderian said her information has him as a 26-year-old.

Molina was airlifted out of the canyon around 7:20 p.m, after the helicopter had been circling the canyon area for about 20 minutes.

He had been hiking with three friends, Derderian said, one of whom was able to get cell phone reception and call in the accident.

Derderian said this is the first fatality in the area in 2011, though a hiker died there last summer under similar circumstances, she added.

The department has been making regular rescues in Eaton Canyon this year, she said.

"We're getting mountain rescues almost every weekend," Derderian said.

Editor's note: The information in this story regarding age and other details has been changed several times as new information has come in.

Whittier Daily News

Hiker, 21, dies in fall at Eaton Canyon
By Nathan McIntire Staff Writer, Whittier Daily News
July 2, 2009

The body of a 21-year-old male being carried to be loaded in Los Angeles Search & Rescue Air 5 helicopter in Eaton Canyon.
The body of a 21-year-old male being carried to be loaded in Los Angeles Search & Rescue Air 5 helicopter in Eaton Canyon. The hiker fell while descending from a waterfall near Eaton Canyon Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Hernandez rushed down to where the man landed and saw him hunched over a tree, covered in blood.
PASADENA - A 21-year- old hiker fell about 200 feet to his death Tuesday morning while hiking through a treacherous area in Eaton Canyon.

The Pasadena man, whom coroner's officials had not identified as of Tuesday evening, was hiking with Jesse Hernandez, 17, of Pasadena when he attempted to slowly slide down a steep slope and got stuck.

Hernandez saw the man freeze and attempted to come to his aid.

"I kind of grabbed a twig so he could hold onto it, but he just started sliding," Hernandez said. "He somersaulted once, and then I couldn't see him."

"I knew he was dead," he said.

After turning the man on his back and trying to stabilize his head, which had sustained severe trauma, Hernandez ran for help. He eventually found two men. One had a cell phone and called 9-1-1 just after 10 a.m.

Rescuers from several agencies arrived about 15 minutes later and hiked up to discover that the man was indeed dead.

About 10:30 a.m., 22 firefighters and search and rescue personnel from the Pasadena Fire Department, the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team, the Glendale Fire Department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service hiked in to extract the body.

A long line of rescuers slowly emerged from under a bridge on the Mount Wilson Toll Road more than two hours later, carrying the man's body on a stretcher. The body was loaded onto a six-wheeled vehicle and driven to an area where a helicopter could land.

Once the helicopter landed, the man's body was loaded onboard and transported to the coroner's office, firefighters said.

Eaton Canyon Hiker Identified
Fallen hiker was Pasadena resident Arturo Beristain Hernandez

Published: Friday, July 3, 2009 | 11:00 AM

The 24-year-old man who fell about 100 feet to his death in near the Eaton Canyon Nature Center in Altadena on Tuesday was identified as Pasadena resident Arturo Beristain Hernandez, it was announced by the county Coroner’s Office.

City fire officials discovered Hernandez’s body was found shortly after 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning near a waterfall in Eaton Canyon, according to news reports. He was apparently hiking on a nearby trail with a teenage companion before falling to his death. Hernandez was reportedly pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Lisa Derderian of Pasadena City Fire, Hernandez’s 17-year-old companion suffered minor injuries.