Cal Poly electrical engineering junior Kevin Trevor Rodriguez fell to his death at Sequoia National Park Aug. 10, officials from the National Park Service (NPS) said. Rodriguez is survived by his sister, an older brother and his parents, Robert and Trinidad.
Rodriguez, 19, was about to enter his third year at Cal Poly when the hiking accident occurred. He had just finished three courses at Moorpark Community College during his summer break and was celebrating his academic success by going to Sequoia National Park, said his father, Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez left for the park with two childhood friends and his family Aug. 9.
Rodriguez and his friends left to go hiking around 11 a.m. on Aug. 10, his father said. Rodriguez’s family dropped off their son and his friends near a trail and planned to meet up later that day. Rodriguez was hiking near Tokopah Falls, a very rocky area, when the accident occurred in the late afternoon. Rodriguez was hiking down a steep drop when he slipped.
He fell 50-60 feet to the base of a canyon and suffered severe head injuries, landing in what the California Park Service described as a small pool below the rocks. His family was informed of the tragedy around 6 p.m., after his body had been airlifted by a medical helicopter to a nearby city.
Park authorities and paramedics at the scene attempted CPR for about one hour before pronouncing him dead at 4 p.m.
Park officials speculate that Rodriguez and his hiking companions chose to take an easier route.
“While less steep, the rocks they chose to descend were made slippery by water passing over them during high water,” according to a statement from the NPS.
One of the roommates he would have been living with this year was with him on the hike.
Rodriguez was a member of the renewable energy club at Cal Poly. Club president Patrick Bernard said that without Rodriguez the club would not exist. Rodriguez was the only person to show up to Bernard’s first meeting as president. It was not only his commitment to the club that Bernard remembered but also his outgoing personality.
“He always wore a smile,” Bernard said. “He was always inviting people to dinner and was always down to go to the beach or on a hike.”
Bernard also said that Rodriguez was his go to guy and was smart beyond his years.
“In five years Kevin would be a millionaire, gazillionaire genuis,” Bernard said.
Bernard regrets not taking pictures at club meetings because he feels like he does not have enough tangible moments of Rodriguez.
The passing of Rodriguez, a Malibu resident and former Malibu High School student, prompted the creation of a 447-member strong Facebook group, titled “In Loving Memory of Kevin Rodriguez, R.I.P.” Rodriguez’s younger sister Diana started the group.
Many members of the group shared reactions to the news of Rodriguez’s death on the group’s Facebook wall.
“Kevin was always such a nice person,” one member wrote. “I didn’t know him well, but he made going to Malibu High a lot easier for me as an incoming freshman some six years ago. I’ll always remember you as the caring, smart person who accepted everyone for who they were and always had something nice to say.”
Rodriguez is remembered by friends and family as a friendly face and someone who enjoyed learning. He liked surfing, both at home in Malibu and at school around Pismo Beach and Morro Bay. His friends described him as respectful and loving.
Rodriguez was interested in programming and software development and wanted to develop his own computer games, his father said.
Robert Rodriguez noticed that his son was becoming increasingly spiritual about three to four weeks before the accident.
“There was no time to say goodbye the day you went away,” Robert Rodriguez wrote about his son’s passing. “We think of you in silence, we often speak your name. All we have are memories, and your picture in a frame. If tears could build a stairway and heartaches make a lane, we would walk the path to Heaven to bring you home again… Fly well sweetie, till we meet again.”
“He always believed in this: ‘knowledge is power,'” Robert Rodriguez said. “He always liked to treat others the way he liked to be treated. He always said, ‘never assume’ or ‘never judge.'”
A church memorial service took place on Aug. 23 in Westlake Village. Rodriguez would have been 20 this November.