Berkeley man found dead in Yosemite National Park

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Correction Appended

Berkeley resident James Dunbar was found dead Friday afternoon by Yosemite National Park rangers who were attempting to recover the body of another man who had drowned in the Merced River, which runs through the southern part of the park and the Yosemite Valley.

According to major media outlets, the body of Dunbar, 35, was discovered as rescuers were retrieving the body of Kent Butler, associate dean for research and operations in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, who had slipped and became lodged in rocks in the river and drowned. It was reported that though others had witnessed his fall, none were able to rescue Butler before he was swept off by the current and stuck in the rocks.

Kari Cobb, a Yosemite park spokesperson and ranger, said Dunbar was apparently running down the Upper Yosemite Falls trail when he tripped and hit his head on a rock and lost consciousness. Though park rangers arrived and attempted to revive him, Dunbar was later pronounced dead at the scene.

On average, Cobb said the park has about 15 deaths per year. She said some of those deaths are a result of natural causes, such as heart attacks, while others are the result of hikers and climbers who accidentally fall or slip to their deaths.

Cobb said while park rangers do what they can to remind people of the dangers of hiking and climbing in the park - such as telling people to bring water or to watch their step on slippery slopes after a wet spring - it is ultimately up to the park visitor to remain vigilant and make sure they do not put themselves in danger.

"Yosemite is obviously a wilderness area. We have over 800 miles of trails that people can hike, and we do the most that we can to remind people of the dangers," she said. "We don't have rangers on every single trail, and it is ultimately the responsibility of the park visitor to take the proper precautions."


Correction: Thursday, May 19, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that James Dunbar was 35. In fact, he was 34.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Katie Nelson is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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