Firefighter Rock Climber
Gavin Escobar. Photo credit: @LBFD via Twitter

Authorities identified a pair of climbers who died trying to scale a mountainside east of Idyllwild Thursday – one of whom is a firefighter who played football at San Diego State.

Gavin Escobar, 31, and Chelsea Walsh, 33, both of Huntington Beach, died about 12:20 p.m. Wednesday southeast of Humber Park, within the San Bernardino National Forest, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Escobar, an off-duty Long Beach city firefighter, joined the agency in February, according to a department Facebook post.

Escobar was also a former professional football tight end who spent four years with the Dallas Cowboys and also had stints with teams including the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.

Escobar left San Diego State early, declaring for the 2013 NFL draft, according to Mountain West Connection. He had 93 receptions and 13 touchdowns in his last two years as an Aztec, the report said.

He also was named to the Mountain West’s all-conference first team following the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

The alum has a brief bio on the SDSU athletics site. While in the NFL, he played in 64 games, mostly for Dallas. He also had a stint with the San Diego Fleet, which stopped operations when its parent league folded in 2019.

He is survived by his wife and two young children, according to the Long Beach Fire Department.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gavin’s family. I know his wife, Sarah, and daughters, Josey and Charlotte, were everything to him,” SDSU head football coach Brady Hoke said. “Gavin was a great man, father, son and teammate, and will be deeply missed by all.”

Aztec athletic director John David Wicker called him “the epitome of a student-athlete, and a leader on and off the field.”

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, despite poor mobile phone reception in the remote area.

According to the Riverside County Fire Department, multiple engine crews and a sheriff’s helicopter crew mounted a search-and-rescue operation.

Firefighters hiked a steep trail and reached the area where the victims were spotted 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.

– Staff and wire reports

Updated 11:15 p.m. Sept. 29, 2022