A Riverside, California resident died on March 15, in a rock climbing accident at Joshua Tree National Park. Curtis Woodrow Stark II, 67, suffered fatal injuries during a fall while climbing a rock formation called the Great Burrito. A second climber, Alfred Kuok, 44, of Claremont, California also sustained injuries during the accident.
At approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, Curtis Stark and Alfred Kuok were climbing in an area near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Mr. Stark was the lead climber on the Great Burrito rock formation and was being followed by Alfred Kuok. Experiencing difficulty with his climb, Stark began to descend. During the descent he lost his grip and fell. As he fell, Stark struck Alfred Kuok causing him to fall as well. Mr. Kuok’s protection held arresting his fall, but Curtis Stark continued to fall suffering fatal head injuries when he struck the ground. It is estimated Stark fell about 100 feet.
Two nearby rock climbers responded to the scene and lowered Kuok from the cliff face. National Park Service rangers received word of the accident at approximately 4:40 p.m. Park rangers and members of the Joshua Tree Search & Rescue responded to the incident. Mr. Kuok was treated by emergency personnel for back pain, rib injuries, and other possible internal injuries. A San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was called in and airlifted Kuok to Desert Regional Hospital in Palm Springs. Personnel from the Riverside County Coroner’s Office also responded to the accident scene.
Park visitors are reminded that rock climbing poses inherent dangers. Extreme caution, safe climbing techniques, and properly functioning equipment should be used at all times while climbing the park's rock formations.