Former Dallas Cowboy who joined LBFD this year dies in rock climbing fall

A Long Beach firefighter who spent six years playing in the NFL before joining the LBFD was one of the two rock climbers who died Wednesday when they fell while trying to scale a mountainside in the San Bernardino National Forest, authorities said.

The two climbers were identified as Gavin Escobar, 31, and Chelsea Walsh, 33, both Huntington Beach residents.

Authorities said Escobar and Walsh were climbing a rock face in an area near the Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout near Idyllwild when they fell.

Two witnesses saw them just after noon and called authorities, who soon started a search-and-rescue operation using multiple engine crews and a sheriff’s helicopter crew.

Firefighters hiked a steep trail and reached the place where Escobar and Walsh were spotted about an hour later, but they were both pronounced dead, according to authorities.

Escobar went to San Diego State University before being drafted in 2013 by the Cowboys where he spent the majority of his career playing tight end. He retired from football in 2019 and joined the LBFD in February 2022. He was assigned to Fire Station 3 on B-shift, according to the LBFD.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the off-duty death of Long Beach Firefighter Gavin Escobar,” the department said via social media.

Escobar leaves behind his wife and two young children, the LBFD said.

City News Service contributed to this report. 

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.