Boy drowns during group camping trip to Sequoia National Forest

FRESNO, Calif. - A 15-year-old Long Beach boy drowned in a remote Sequoia National Forest lake while on a backpacking trip.

Thomas Ramirez was swimming in Little Kern Lake with other seven other teenagers and a camp counselor Wednesday when he went underwater and never surfaced, Tulare County Sheriff's Lt. Kevin Mizner said.

''They watched him struggling and tried to help him,'' Mizner said. ''They were not able to get to him.''

Divers pulled Thomas' body out of the 20-foot-deep water Thursday.

The teenager was on a trip sponsored by the Pyles Boys Camp, which organizes camping adventures for poor youths. About 21,000 boys have gone through the program since 1949, Executive Director Rocky Leitzell said.

It's unclear why Thomas slipped under the water, Mizner said.

''At some point he became distressed. I don't know if it was a cramp or something else,'' Mizner said.

Little Kern Lake, an 18-mile hike into the wilderness, is only accessible by foot, horseback and helicopter.

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