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Couple who died after fall in Yosemite were intoxicated, autopsies show

An unidentified couple gets married Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, at Taft Point, upper left, in California’s Yosemite National Park. (Amanda Lee Myers / AP)
An unidentified couple gets married Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, at Taft Point, upper left, in California’s Yosemite National Park. (Amanda Lee Myers / AP)
By Carlos Lozano Los Angeles Times

A Bay Area couple who died after falling from a popular overlook at Yosemite National Park were intoxicated at the time, according to autopsy reports.

Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and his wife, Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, died Oct. 25 after plunging about 800 feet from Taft Point, park officials said. They were citizens of India who were living in the U.S.

The couple died of “multiple injuries to the head, neck, chest and abdomen, sustained by a fall from a mountain,” Dr. Sung-Ook Baik, a forensic pathologist in the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office, wrote in his Jan. 4 report, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Viswanath and Moorthy were “intoxicated with ethyl alcohol prior to death,” Baik said in the document, which included toxicology reports. Ethyl alcohol is found in beer, wine and hard liquor.

The sheriff’s department is still investigating how they fell.

Viswanath’s brother, Jishnu Viswanath, told the Associated Press at the time that the couple had set up a tripod-mounted camera near the ledge of Taft Point on the evening of Oct. 23.

Park visitors saw the camera the next morning and alerted rangers, who “used high-powered binoculars to find them and used helicopters to airlift the bodies,” he said.

In March, Moorthy posted a photo of herself on Instagram, sitting on a cliff at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in a shirt that said “Sunset Chaser.” In the caption, she wrote about the dangers of taking dramatic, high-risk photos for likes on social media.

“A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs and skyscrapers, but did you know that wind gusts can be FATAL???” Moorthy wrote. “Is our life just worth one photo?”

Sean Matteson, a Yosemite visitor from Oakland, said he noticed Moorthy around sunset at Taft Point, saying she stood out because of her bright pink hair. “She was very close to the edge, but it looked like she was enjoying herself,” Matteson said. “She gave me the willies. There aren’t any railings. I was not about to get that close to the edge. But she seemed comfortable. She didn’t seem like she was in distress or anything.”

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