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Identity of tree sitter killed in fall a mystery

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Identity of tree sitter killed in fall a mystery

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2002/October/11/local/stories/01local.htm>

October 11, 2002
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer

CORRALITOS - Two days after an Earth First! tree-sitter died after an 85-foot fall from his redwood perch, his fellow activists were organizing a memorial for a man they barely knew.
In fact, they were still trying to learn his name.
The man known to the other activists as “Naya” died Tuesday night after falling during a solo tree-sit in the Ramsey Gulch area above Corralitos. He had been protesting a nearby logging operation.
Assumed names are used frequently by Earth First! members as a way to avoid prosecution. Previous tree-sitters have included Blackbird, Acorn and Dirt. In some cases the activists won’t reveal their real names even to each other.
But in this case, an assumed name has only added to the confusion. Area Earth First! members on Thursday were still trying to find out Naya’s true identity. Earth First! Santa Cruz spokesman Dennis Davie said Naya’s real name might be Robin, and that Thursday would have been his 22nd birthday.
They had little else to go on, though, and the local Earth First! hot line, normally a news source for environmental activists, included a plea on its outgoing message aimed at “anyone who has any idea who this person was.”
The fall itself also remained a mystery. Naya was alone in the tree, meaning no one can say exactly what went wrong. He had a walkie-talkie and cell phone, and was on a perch built prior to his ascent. He apparently made no calls indicating trouble. According to Earth First! he had been in town for just a day, and in the tree for only 12 hours before falling.
The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office has identified him as “John Doe” and had not reached any family as of Thursday evening. Though the accident took place in Santa Cruz County, Santa Clara County is handling the investigation because he died across the county line, apparently while being taken by helicopter to Valley Medical Center in San Jose.
Earth First! Santa Cruz, which has tentatively scheduled a memorial service for Oct. 19, had a three-hour meeting for local members after the accident.
“We are still very sad, very emotionally shook up,” Davie said. “We don’t even know his name. We can’t talk to his family.”
Davie said Naya arrived in town Monday, and ran into Earth First! organizers that night. He told them he had been involved with the forest-defense group in Arcata, and expressed an interest in helping with the Ramsey Gulch protest. The young man reportedly convinced Earth First! organizers he was well-skilled, had rock climbed many times and knew how harnesses and other safety equipment worked. Witnesses say he scaled the tree quickly and eagerly.
“We checked him out and gave him our training,” Davie said, adding that all tree sitters get safety training. How much depends on their experience, he said.
But loggers who found him about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday after hearing moaning sounds near the base of a large redwood said he was not wearing a harness. They said he was conscious and breathing, and told them he was in pain from a compound fracture in his arm and injuries to his leg.
David Van Lennep of Redwood Empire, who went to the scene and saw the man on the ground, said loggers had “stabilized him, held his hand and did what they could do. He was lucid. I was surprised he did that well after the fall, and I expected him to pull through.”
Van Lennep said the man was able to answer questions about his condition even while wearing an oxygen mask supplied by rescue workers.
The man is believed to be the first California Earth First! tree-sitter to die after a fall from a tree. In June of 2001, Earth First! tree sitter Jenna Griffith was injured after falling from a redwood tree in Boulder Creek. Activists said she has recovered.
Other Earth First activists, however, have died during protests. David Chain, 24, was killed by a felled tree in October of 1998 in the Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County. Pacific Lumber Co. called the death accidental. Earth First! maintains a logger deliberately felled the tree toward Chain.
In April, Earth First! activist Beth O’Brien, 22, died in Oregon after falling 150 feet from a tree-sitting platform. She had unhooked herself from one platform and was trying to reach another by a rope ladder when she fell, according to sheriff’s reports.
Naya’s death has put a temporary end to local tree-sitting. Another tree sitter has left his Ramsey Gulch perch because he no longer felt safe, Davie said.
For the moment then, there appears to be no active tree-sitting protest in the county.
Naya was part of a protest against what Earth First! considers to be erosion-promoting, non-sustainable logging in a watershed that supports trout and steelhead.
Redwood Empire issued a statement of regret about the young man’s death. Redwood Empire criticized the group for trespassing, and denies the group’s accusations, saying its methods are environmentally sound.
Earth First! describes itself as a loosely organized environmental group that participates in protests, such as logging-road blockades and tree sitting, in an attempt to curtail what it describes as unsound logging practices.
The group’s critics say members are trespassers who willfully endanger themselves and others for their cause.
Earth First! has no formal organization, and has no way of providing insurance for sitters who risk injury or death in their protests.
“We don’t have a fund,” Davie said. “We are funded entirely by local donations. There is no big bank accounts, no insurance policies. We don’t have any way of dealing with this from a financial point of view.”
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Contact Dan White at dwhite (at) santa-cruz.com
 
 


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Comments

In Mourning (Alpha/Omega)

This is a true tragedy. This is just starting to become tangible for me, and i'm feeling pain. i never met Robin (if that is his name...)but that is totally irrelevant. He was a brother, a pacifist i'm told. i want to express my most heartfelt condolances to all, but especially to those who had the privelage to know Naya better than i... my heart is bleeding(.11111/>?.!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????...that was anger)...

Let us band together to give tribute to a friend who died for his love of the earth. may he never be forgotten.

peace and freedom through resistance,
echo
 

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