California college engineering student dies at Big Sur waterfall in tragic accident: ‘Passion for adventure’

A third year mechanical engineering student with a “passion for adventure” from California Polytechnic State University tragically fell to his death while on a trip to Big Sur. 

Kenneth Taylor, 21, was found dead by emergency responders around 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 at the base of a 120-foot waterfall along California’s rugged coast, the Monterey County sheriff’s office said.

Authorities said that foul play was not suspected.

A spokesperson with the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s department confirmed with the Tribune newspaper that it was described as a climbing accident.

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A break in the southbound lane of Highway 1 at Rocky Creek Bridge in Big Sur, Calif., Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

Cal Poly University President Jeffery D. Armstrong and Vice President for Student Affairs Keith B. Humphrey shared a joint statement with the campus community on Monday, remembering Taylor as being kind and an outdoor enthusiast. 

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of Cal Poly student Kenneth Taylor’s passing this past weekend. Kenneth, a third-year student majoring in mechanical engineering from Richland, Washington, died Saturday, April 6, after an accident during a trip to Big Sur,” the statement said.

A large sign marks the Grand Avenue entrance to Cal Poly's university campus in San Luis Obispo, California. (David Middlecamp/San Luis Obispo Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

A large sign marks the Grand Avenue entrance to Cal Poly’s university campus in San Luis Obispo, California.  (David Middlecamp/San Luis Obispo Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Taylor was remembered as “a person of incredible technical skill and, even more, incredible kindness, unmatched wittiness, and a passion for adventure that could inspire anyone.” 

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“Kenneth was an outdoor enthusiast: he was a founding member of the Alpine Club, participated in activities with the Surfrider Foundation, and served as a trip leader for ASI Poly Escapes,” the statement from school leaders said. “ASI staff described him as “a person of incredible technical skill and even more incredible kindness, unmatched wittiness, and a passion for adventure that could inspire anyone.” 

Big Sur

McWay Falls drops over an 80-foot cliff onto the beach at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along California Highway 1 on Sunday, May 2, 2021 in Big Sur, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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The university said that they are offering both students and campus employees mental health counseling.

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