Berkeley man died from heart attack, not fall

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James Dunbar, a Berkeley resident who died on a trail below the Yosemite Falls last week in Yosemite National Park, died due to a heart attack and not from accidentally slipping and falling as initial reports suggested, park officials announced Wednesday.

According to major media outlets, the 34-year-old was hiking down the trail with family and friends in Yosemite National Park last Friday when he suddenly fell to his knees and collapsed on the trail, and his fiancee, Alison Bagby, and at least one other hiker spent more than half an hour trying to revive him before emergency crews arrived.

According to Kari Cobb, a parks spokesperson and ranger, Dunbar was pronounced dead at the scene.

Initially, reports suggested that Dunbar might have tripped and hit his head on a rock, but preliminary reports from an autopsy released Wednesday determined the cause of death was a blood clot in his coronary artery, which caused the heart attack, according to Cobb.

Though a final report about the incident is still being finalized, Cobb said that someone did call the park's Emergency Dispatch Center and that within 15 minutes, park rangers were on the scene. Cobb added that rangers remained for another 45 minutes trying to revive Dunbar before he was officially pronounced dead.

"Trails can be dangerous, but in this case he died of of a heart attack and not anything due to the trail," Cobb said. "I obviously cannot comment on previous medical history, but on a general topic, Yosemite (National Park) is wilderness, and we do like to tell visitors to just be comfortable with their surroundings."

Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that a preliminary autopsy report was the final report.


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

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