Update: UC Berkeley student’s body recovered beneath Oregon waterfall

Search and rescue personnel work to recover the body of Brian Lewinstein, who fell down southern Oregon’s Toketee Falls in August. Photo: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

Update, Sept. 17: Crews have located and recovered the body of Brian Lewinstein, the UC Berkeley law student who fell down a southern Oregon embankment while taking a photo of a waterfall about a month ago.

Two hikers noticed 23-year-old Lewinstein’s body in a Toketee Falls pool Thursday and alerted authorities, said the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in a statement. The waterfall is located in the Umpqua National Forest.

“Deputies along with search and rescue personnel immediately responded to perform a recovery mission, which included steep angle rappelling,” the statement said.

Rescuers previously conducted an extensive search of the area in the days following Lewinstein’s fall, a complicated task due to the steep terrain, the sheriff’s office said. At the time, personnel expected that Lewinstein had fallen into the first pool below the fall, but they said there was a possibility he’d dropped into the second, where his body was ultimately discovered.


In August, Berkeley Law representatives said the school community was shaken by the news about Lewinstein, who they said was a beloved student.

Update, Aug. 15: The Douglas County Sheriff’s office expects to ramp down its search for the body of Brian Lewinstein by the end of today, as searchers “are comfortable they have searched all possible ground beneath the falls,” according to a news update. 

“A deputy will continue to check the bodies of water where Mr. Lewinstein may be located,” the press release said. “We are working closely with the Lewinstein family and will keep them apprised of our progress. Our hearts go out to them,” said Sgt. Brad O’Dell.

Rescuers search for a UC Berkeley law school student who fell down a steep embankment in Oregon on Sunday. Photos: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

Search and rescue personnel believe that Lewinstein fell into the top pool beneath the waterfall. But “divers are unable to search the pools due to dangerous water conditions,” according to the press release.

“There are several factors at play that make this search problematic, such as the steepness of the terrain, the length of the fall and the fact that Mr. Lewinstein possibly landed in the first pool beneath the falls,” according to the release. “If he landed in the falls there is a possibility he was washed down to the second pool or even into the North Umpqua River,” said Wayne Stinson Emergency Management Coordinator.

Original story: A UC Berkeley law student who fell down a steep embankment in southern Oregon on Sunday has still not been found, authorities said Tuesday.

Brian Lewinstein, 23, had crossed a safety fence to take a photo of a waterfall in the Umpqua National Forest when he slipped and fell down into the water, said the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in a release.

“Our search and rescue teams are still up there today,” said Sgt. Brad O’Dell late Tuesday morning. “We have utilized ground crews as well as drones.” The terrain around Toketee Falls is complex, making the search effort a complicated one, he said.

Cheryl Caplan, a spokeswoman for the Umpqua National Forest, could not be reached immediately Tuesday but told the San Francisco Chronicle she expected Lewinstein died in the quick-moving stream he fell into.

“They’ve searched the river for him. If he were alive, I think they would have found him,” she told the paper. “Our hearts are broken over this.”

The waterfall is located along the North Umpqua River, about 60 miles east of the town of Roseburg, Oregon. O’Dell said he could not recall any similar incidents at the site recently.

The news of the student’s fall has shaken many in the Berkeley Law community. Lewinstein was set to begin his second year at the school next week.

“We are devastated at the news of Brian’s accident,” said Dean Erwin Chemerinsky in an email. “He was a beloved member of our community. Our thoughts and deep sympathies are with his family at this difficult time.” Chemerinsky said he taught Lewinstein in a constitutional law class.

Lewinstein has interned at the East Bay Community Law Center as well, working on juvenile defense.

On his LinkedIn page, Lewinstein described his professional interests as “racial justice and civil rights law, especially as they relate to police misconduct.” He graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in 2016.

Berkeleyside has reached out to Lewinstein’s family. This story will be updated when more information is available.