Carson Dean Cheney, 4, poses for a photo at the Glenwood Cemetery in Park… (Cheney family / Park City…)
Some of the children posing for a family photo in a Utah cemetery weren't cooperating, so 4-year-old Carson Dean Cheney ducked behind a 6-foot-tall tombstone to make them laugh.
He poked his head out. He pretended to be a leprechaun. Then the metal connecting the headstone to the pedestal cracked. The tombstone -- weighing hundreds of pounds -- toppled, crushing the boy.
It took three men to lift the slab off him, according to the Associated Press. He suffered head, chest and abdominal injuries and died at Park City Medical Center. Officials are investigating the incident.
“There's still so much disbelief and sorrow and anguish," Geri Gibbs, the boy’s grandmother, told the AP. "We just keep waiting for the door to open up and Carson to come through, a happy little boy."
The Park City Police Department and a spokeswoman for Park City Medical Center declined to comment, instead citing a statement from the family.
“This tragic accident has taken the life of our energetic, sweet, beloved little boy, Carson Dean Cheney,” Gibbs said in the statement. “We appreciate your thoughts and prayers, but wish for privacy at this difficult time.”
The boy and his family were visiting from Lehi, about an hour southeast of Park City. The boy’s father does photography in his spare time, family friend Charles Morley told the AP, and was shooting portraits at the cemetery because of its extensive landscaping.
The lush 5-acre private cemetery was founded in 1885 for miners whose families couldn’t afford to use the city cemetery, Glenwood Cemetery Assn. President Bruce Erickson told the Los Angeles Times.
After the Park City mining industry shut down in 1910, the cemetery fell into disrepair, Erickson said. For more than half a century, the grounds grew wild and unkempt. A board of volunteers and civic leaders took control of the property in 1982. This is the first such accident since then.
People connected to the seven mining societies that founded the cemetery can still be buried there. The cemetery remains open to the public.
Arching gates and wrought-iron fencing frame the cemetery, which lies at the foot of the Park City ski resort. A river runs through one corner of the property, Erickson said. Deer, ducks and sometimes moose wander through. The place is popular with photographers.
The cemetery owns the grounds, Erickson said, but families own and maintain the tombstones. Many are at least 100 years old. Because the cemetery is so old and fell into disrepair for many years, the board of directors has not located all the families with plots.