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Coachella boy killed in hunting accident

November 29, 2011

By Blake Herzog, MyDesert.com

Coachella — A 14-year-old Coachella boy killed in a hunting accident over Thanksgiving weekend was shot by his teenage cousin, a relative said Monday.

Isreal Delatorre of Coachella died Saturday afternoon after he was unintentionally shot on Little Thomas Mountain Road near Garner Valley, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

The fatal shot was fired by another 14-year-old boy — the son of local hunting safety instructor Guillermo Delatorre — who was with the two boys on a deer hunt.

Isreal is the instructor's nephew.

“It is hard for me to explain to a father that his kid is dead, when I had him,” he said, choking up. He declined to give his own son's name.

Isreal got caught up in the moment of seeing his first deer, Delatorre said.

“I told (Isreal) to stay right here, and he didn't. It all happened so fast seconds.

He's been replaying the accident in his head.

“I don't know what I could have done different,” he said. “I know 100 percent deep in my conscience that kid knew what to do, and my son knew what to do.

“I don't know why he got in front.”

Delatorre said he's been teaching gun safety classes since the 1990s, and has been doing it full time the past few years.

His nephew had gone through all 30 hours of hunter education training in classes he taught, and then volunteered to help him in further classes.

“He loved it,” he said. “He was very passionate about it.”

Derek Fong, president of the Hunter Education Instructor Association of Southern California, said adult supervision is key when dealing with young hunters, with preferably at least one adult per child.

“How do you do that? How do you control two 14-year-olds?” Fong asked.

In 2007, the most recent statistics available, there were 239 hunting accidents, according to the International Hunter Education Association, which covers mainly the United States and Canada.

Nineteen were fatal.

Michigan and Ohio had the most accidents, with 33 and 30, respectively.

Before 1953, when California instituted mandatory hunter education, the state had 30 to 50 hunter fatalities per year, according to Patrick Foy, a game warden and hunter education instructor with the California Department of Fish and Game.

After education was required, the deaths dropped dramatically, he said. In the past 20 to 30 years, the average is one or two per year.

Hunting accidents happen more with adults than juveniles, Foy said. Young hunters generally have just taken hunter education classes.

Sheriff's department spokesperson Cpl. Courtney Donowho said the department has ruled the shooting as accidental, not a criminal matter, and would not be releasing any more information out of respect for the family.

In addition to hunting, Isreal was an excellent soccer player who would charge his father $20 per goal scored, his uncle said.

“I know he's up there right now bugging people,” Delatorre said. “I know he's charging them for goals, or asking them to take him on hunting trips.

“They got their hands full with that little guy.”

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