1995 ~ March 2005
the past decade,
been telling readers
they won't read, hear,
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In the News -
Friday, JULY 15, 2005
On Monday, July 11, Noah Dominguez, 24, from Southern California
drowned in the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park.
Dominguez, of Wilmington, had entered the water just above the footbridge
near Buckeye Flat Campground.
This tragedy is the second drowning in Sequoia Park this
year. On May 27, Bryan Coker of Lemoore was carried away by the swift
current near the Ash Mountain park headquarters while celebrating his
21st birthday at the river.
Monday’s emergency was reported to a campground ranger
at 3:25 p.m. The ranger went immediately to the area and within minutes
other park personnel began arriving on the scene.
Rescuers could see that Dominguez was trapped against rocks
in the strong current, but determined that the assistance of a technical
swiftwater team was needed to retrieve him. Once the team arrived on the
scene, several rescuers were lowered by rope where they were able to free
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office deputy coroner pronounced
Dominguez dead at the scene just before 6 p.m.
According to information from witnesses at the scene, the
man initially became caught in a whirlpool. Some of his cousins, who were
with the swimmer, tried to rescue him but he was swept downriver where
he became trapped underwater.
Dominguez and his fiancée, Desiree, who is seven months
pregnant, along with several other family members had been staying in
a Three Rivers campground. They went to Sequoia Park on Monday to see
some of the swimming holes that Noah remembered visiting as a youth.
Another park visitor barely escaped with his life during
the afternoon of Saturday, July 2. Rangers responded to a report of a
man stranded in the Kaweah River near Hospital Rock.
Henry Rios, 26, of Lancaster, was swept downstream by the
swift current — descending through rapids rated as Class 5, on a
scale of 1 to 6 — but somehow managed to grab onto a boulder in
the middle of the river. A ranger was short-hauled by helicopter to the
victim’s location, where Rios was secured and short-hauled out and
taken by ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital.
In spite of the rising temperatures and the decreasing water
levels, rangers are continuing to advise park visitors to use caution
when near the river.
Three days, three
A series of wildland fires that occurred during a 72-hour
period ending on Sunday, July 10, might be a signal that the current season
will be a busy one. Nearly 2,900 acres were consumed in three separate
Fire one— The first fire, on Thursday,
July 7, started on rangeland near Elderwood, approximately 10 miles north
of Woodlake. The stubborn blaze consumed 2,800 acres of grazing land and
was not declared officially out until three days later.
No structures were lost in the Elderwood fire, but according
to Captain Bill Hoover of the Tulare County Fire Department, with lower
humidity and more wind, it could have been much worse. The unconfirmed
cause of the fire is fireworks.
Fire two— A second fire started near
Lake Kaweah on Saturday, July 9, when a bald eagle attempted to land on
power lines and was electrocuted. When the burning bird fell to the ground,
it sparked a brush fire on the rugged ridgetop terrain east of Lemon Hill
and above Lake Kaweah.
That remote fire locale was attacked quickly with precise
aerial drops of water and retardant from helicopters and air-tankers.
It burned approximately 50 undeveloped acres prior to containment.
Fire three— On Sunday, July 10, a
third blaze was sparked along Sierra Drive at Slick Rock when a late-model
Dodge pickup ignited tinder-dry glass after parking in a dirt turnout
adjacent to the highway. That blaze caused some anxious moments for nearby
homeowners but was extinguished after consuming only a couple of acres.
The pickup truck that started the blaze was a total loss.
The fire, according to one resident who lives nearby, underscored the
parking problem at Slick Rock that became extremely congested during this
season’s high water when the parking lot was not accessible.
On Wednesday, July 13, Caltrans officials announced that
the normal weekday closures on Highway 198 would be extended for this
Saturday, July 16. Construction crews will be permitted to work from 6
a.m. until 4 p.m.
The Lemon Cove widening project on State Route 198 includes
a rubberized asphalt overlay from Road 220 to east of Avenue 324 (approximately
five miles). The project began in April and is expected to be complete
On Saturday, flaggers will be in the area reversing traffic
flow westbound and eastbound to one lane. Delays are expected to be less
than 10 minutes. The public is reminded to use extra caution while driving
in the cone zone.
Cones on loan— Van Bailey of Force
Traffic Control said he is grateful to whoever returned the cones and
barriers that he recovered Monday outside the Commonwealth office where
they were anonymously placed. The traffic-control items, he said, are
often “borrowed” by Lake Kaweah boaters to reserve parking
spaces at Lemon Hill while launching.
3R woman appointed
Last week, Marge Ewen of Three Rivers announced that she
was resigning her position as a Community Services District (CSD) boardmember
effective immediately. Her resignation was necessary, she said, because
she had been appointed by Judge Kalashian to serve as the foreman of the
Tulare County Grand Jury for the term of July 2005 to June 2006.
“It is with mixed
emotions that I resign from the CSD board,” Ewen said. “I
have really enjoyed working with the other members of the board and the
Three Rivers community.”
The Grand Jury performs a watchdog agency’s role over
all public entities and programs, as well as companies and individuals
who operate in Tulare County. The Grand Jury’s annual report, which
often uncovers wrongdoing, can have serious consequences including criminal
Ewen said two other Three Rivers resi
dents would also serve on this
year’s Grand Jury. The names of the others were not immediately
He was discovered because of hikers who saw his red backpack
floating in Evolution Lake and reported it to Bob Kenan, a Kings Canyon
National Park backcountry ranger. Bob, who has been stationed at various
posts in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for
more than 30 seasons, is stationed this year at the McClure Meadow Ranger
Station along the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail, about five miles from
As was reported in the July 1 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth,
the backpack was too far out in the partially-frozen lake for Bob to retrieve,
so he radioed for assistance. Rangers, equipped for a dip in ice water,
were flown in the next morning and discovered this was more than a recovery
of someone’s pack because there was a body attached to it.
The body was retrieved and delivered to the Fresno County
Coroner and identified as Peter Spoecker, age 64, of Joshua Tree. End
of story, right?
Not so fast. As I wrote the story that week, the victim’s
name — Peter Daniel Spoecker — sounded hauntingly familiar,
but I couldn’t quite place it… a musician, perhaps? But I
was on a deadline and didn’t have time to research this hunch.
Another item that nagged at me long after the story was published
was the fact that Ranger Bob noted that the last entry in the logbook
at Evolution Lake was June 13, suggesting that this was when Peter arrived
there, yet his body was not discovered until two weeks later on June 27.
In answer to my question, the local Park Service information
officer responded that there were no reports of overdue hikers in the
parks. But she did verify that the backpacker was well-equipped for the
current snowy conditions.
An Internet search revealed that there is a musician and
music producer named Peter Spoecker, who specializes in making and playing
the didgeridoo, an indigenous musical instrument of Australian Aborigines.
Upon discovering his website, I was able to determine that this Peter
Spoecker was also from Joshua Tree and in the same age range as the Kings
After a couple of tries, I made contact with Grahm and Trish
of The Didgeridoo Store in Oakhurst.
“Yes, it is the
same Peter Spoecker,” they replied sadly. “We are still in
shock about his passing as he was a very dear friend, like family to us.”
When asked why Peter would not have been reported as overdue
when he failed to return as scheduled from his backcountry trip, they
explained: “Peter would always go out hiking for weeks at a time,
sometimes coming home from trips early and sometimes extending his trips
“We never thought
anything of it when he was two weeks late on his ‘scheduled’
return from this trip,” they continued.
Although an official cause of death has not yet been released,
Peter most likely drowned or succumbed to hypothermia after falling through
ice into the lake.
According to his trip itinerary, filed when he obtained his
backcountry permit from Inyo National Forest, Peter set out from North
Lake in Inyo County. He would have traveled southwest on-trail to Lower
Lamarck Lake, then cross-country to Lamarck Col, a pass that, at 12,900
feet above sea level, would have required 3,500 vertical feet of scrambling
over snow and ice.
Still off-trail, he then descended into Darwin Canyon before
meeting up with the John Muir Trail on the north end of Evolution Lake
— often described as one of the most beautiful locales in all of
the Sierra — and directly beneath Mount Darwin, which, at 13,830
feet elevation, is the highest summit in the area.
And this is where Peter spent his last worldly day. It seems
to befit him since he was an artist, a musician of an ancient form, and
an obvious lover of Earth’s most spiritual places.
Peter is featured on several CDs that highlight the didgeridoo
(the word itself is musical; pronounce it with an Australian lilt: DIJ-a-ree-DOO)
— Whole Earth, Aboriginal Etudes, Didge USA (two-CD set), Crossing
Paths, and Joshua Tree 2000.
The latter CD features at least 15 artists who gathered at
the first ever Joshua Tree Didgeridoo Festival, which was founded and
organized by Peter, with assistance from buddies Grahm and Trish. The
JT Didge Fest has been held each year since in Joshua Tree.
“We took [organization
of the Festival] over as Peter became too busy to organize it and we all
wanted it to continue,” explained Grahm and Trish in an email. “We
lived close to that area at the time and it was easy for us to do. But,
last year, we made a major (and wonderful) move to Oakhurst, and Joshua
Tree became too far away for us as festival organizers. So we made the
decision to move it to the forest this year with Peter’s blessing.”
This year’s sixth annual “Jammin’ Tree”
Didgeridoo Festival will be held at the North Fork Community Center and
Campground, just outside of Yosemite National Park. The event is scheduled
for Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 15 to 18.
According to the Festival’s website, the JT Didgefest
will host members of the didgeridoo community from throughout the world.
Didgeridoo players, performers, hand drummers, and anyone interested in
indigenous music is invited to attend.
Concerts, lessons, and workshops will be held throughout
each day. Also, didgeridoos, other instruments, CDs, and handcrafted items
will be for sale.
And, of course, there will be a special tribute performance
to the Festival’s late founder and inspiration, Peter Spoecker.
1945 ~ 2005
Wayne Carlyle McKibbin of Three Rivers died Monday, July
4, 2005, of brain cancer. He was 59.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 16, 3 p.m.,
at the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
Wayne was born Nov. 29, 1945, in Maryland to Katherine Bell and Carlyle
Rentz McKibbin. He was raised in Westby, Wis.
According to Wayne’s daughter, Terah Pack of Exeter:
“My father accomplished in 59 years what many never accomplish in
a lifetime — having a number-one hit and a Platinum album, skydiving,
sweats with Indians, a calling from God that led my father on an amazing
journey as a minister then chaplain at the Susanville prison, where he
found his true calling with the men that most had forgotten. This inspired
my father to launch his ‘Freedom from Addiction’ program.
“My father was
lucky enough to find one true love in life, my mother, Diane. While in
the 10th grade, he played at my mother’s high school prom. When
my mother is asked about that night, she always smiles and answers, ‘I
knew I had found the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.’
“If this man had
not been my father, I would have felt very blessed to have known him.
With faith, forgiveness, and love, some day this loss will become easier
to deal with. Until then, we mourn the loss of one of God’s children.”
Wayne was a minister, chaplain, and meditation teacher for
the past two decades. In 1991, the McKibbin family moved to Three Rivers
where Wayne was pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church. They have
lived in Three Rivers off and on since then.
Wayne is survived by his wife of nearly 42 years, Diane;
four children, Todd, Tracey, Tegan, and Terah; his mother, Katherine;
nine grandchildren; three brothers; and two sisters.
1939 ~ 2005
Anna Amelia Miller, a former resident of Three Rivers currently
residing in Visalia, died Friday, July 1, 2005, of cancer. She was 66.
Anna was born in Sonora, Mexico, the oldest daughter of Anita
Soleno. She was raised in Woodlake and attended Woodlake schools.
Throughout her life, Anna lived off and on in Three Rivers,
the last time being from 1991 to 1994. She raised her children as a single
parent, having been preceded in death by her husband, William “Bill”
She has also resided in Texas, New Mexico, Rhode Island,
and the California communities of San Jose, Boulder Creek, Ojai, and Visalia.
Anna is survived by her sons, Michael Miller and Edward Miller,
both of Visalia; daughters Tina Miller of Ojai and Tavia Johnson of Visalia;
her mother, Anita Soleno of Woodlake; three sisters; four brothers; and
Private services were held. Memorial donations may be sent
in Anna’s name to: Tulare County Hospice, 900 W. Oak St., Visalia,