FRESNO, Calif. -- What started out as another happy outing on a beautiful day in Yosemite National Park turned into tragedy for family and friends now mourning the death of a 17-year-old Clovis West student.
Kao Kue fell Saturday while hiking down the Mist Trail during an outing with nine relatives, his brother, Pao Kue, said Thursday.
The Fresno teen, who struck his head in the fall, was taken off life support Wednesday night at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, his brother said.
Pao Kue, 22, said his brother was an avid volleyball player at Clovis West and hoped to play in the Olympics.
Kao, who would have started his senior year later this month, and his friends were regulars on the volleyball court at the Pinedale Community Center.
"They would stay for hours playing," Kue said.
Kao was respectful, polite and a hard worker, said Bob McCarthy, Clovis West High boys volleyball coach, adding the teen was well-liked by students and teachers.
"We were very fortunate to have Kao as a volleyball player and a student. He was just one of those likable kids -- easy to coach, easy to teach."
Kao was going to be a returning starter on a team that finished second to Buchanan High School in the Valley championship last season, McCarthy said.
"I had full expectations that he was going to have a phenomenal senior year," he said.
Kao was the sixth of eight children. His parents -- mother Pang Vang Kue and father Wang Xay Kue -- were from Laos. The family immigrated from a refugee camp in Thailand to Fresno in the early '90s, Pao Kue said.
Kao loved "anything athletic," the television show "Supernatural" and was a good cook, his brother said.
On Saturday, Pao Kue said, the teen and nine others had climbed to the top of Vernal Fall, the site of other recent deaths.
As they descended, Kao's sister took a picture of him and two of his brothers. The teenager began descending the trail, going about 15 to 20 steps ahead of the others.
"I told him, 'You've got to be careful because these steps are slippery,' " Pao Kue said.
Kao then fell on a section of rock steps, rolled down about six or seven steps and struck his head, his brother said.
As other hikers yelled for someone to call 911, relatives went to Kao's side. He was unconscious, though moving, Kue said.
However, he never regained consciousness, his brother said.
"Right before the accident, we had a nice talk about his future," Kue said.
His brother said he wanted to be an archaeologist and take up photography.
The two had reached a point in their relationship where they "were able to bond brother to brother," Kue said.
"Now he's gone," he said.
Although Kao Kue's fatal injury occurred in Yosemite, his death is not being counted among the park's fatalities this year, which is shaping up to be the deadliest in recent memory.
A San Ramon woman who fell to her death July 31 from Half Dome was the 14th person to die in the park this year.
Hayley LaFlamme, 26, was descending the dome's rain-soaked granite face using mounted cables when she fell 600 feet.
Yosemite typically sees 12 to 15 deaths by the year's end, a park spokeswoman said.
Three hikers from a Modesto-area church group died last month after they climbed over a metal guardrail at the top of Vernal Fall and were swept over the edge of the 317-foot drop-off.
Two hikers drowned in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, and a hiker slipped and fell into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13.