Carson Dean Cheney was with his family in the resort town of Park City on Thursday evening when the headstone toppled onto him after some metal connecting it to its pedestal broke, the boy's grandmother Geri Gibbs told The Associated Press.
The boy's father, Zac Cheney, does photography in his spare time and was taking portraits of another family at the Glenwood Cemetery, said Curtis Morley, a co-worker and family friend. They chose the old cemetery because of its extensive landscaping, he said.
Morley said some of the children being photographed were not being responsive, so Carson tried to help his dad by pretending to be leprechaun and making them laugh. The boy went behind a tombstone and was poking his head out from behind it when it fell on him.
"Carson passed away while trying to make others smile," said Morley, who works with Cheney at a professional services firm in Salt Lake City.
Gibbs said it took three men to pull the heavy slab off the boy, and rescuers "did everything they could possibly do."
The child suffered injuries to his head, chest and abdomen and was taken to the nearby Park City Medical Center, where he died a short time later.
Gibbs said the boy and his family were visiting from Lehi, about an hour away. She said Carson was just about to enter kindergarten, loved to ride his bike and was "full of life."
"There's still so much disbelief and sorrow and anguish," Gibbs said. "We just keep waiting for the door to open up and Carson to come through, a happy little boy."
Investigators were probing the incident. Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter said the coarse headstone that fell on the boy marked the grave of someone who died in the 1800s.
Bruce Erickson, president of the Glenwood Cemetery Association, said the private, five-acre cemetery around the corner from the Park City Mountain Resort was founded by a society of silver miners in 1885 and many of the tombstones are at least 100 years old. The cemetery is open to the public and still accepts burials of people connected to the mining society.
Erickson said new burials happen maybe once a year, and families are responsible for maintaining the headstones. No funerals were held at the cemetery Thursday.
A funeral for the boy is set for Tuesday. Morley said a memorial fund has been established at Zions Bank.
Associated Press writer Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.