San Diego

Man, Distracted by Electronic Device, Identified After Falling to Death at Sunset Cliffs

Authorities have identified a 33-year-old man who was distracted by an electronic device when he fell 60 feet to his death at San Diego's Sunset Cliffs on Christmas Day, according to San Diego Lifeguards.

The incident happened at 4:50 p.m. Friday on the 900 block of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. The man — identified as Joshua M. Burwell, of Sheridan, Indiana — tumbled off the side of a cliff, authorities said. 

"Witnesses stated seeing someone distracted by an electronic device and he just fell over the edge," said San Diego Lifeguard Bill Bender. "(He) wasn't watching where he was walking, he was looking down at the device in his hands."

The details of what Burwell was doing were unclear, Bender said. Lifeguards have not found a device yet and said the device could have been a camera or a phone. 

Burwell's mother, Sharyle, said in a Facebook post her son died while taking pictures. She said he leaves behind a son of his own.

When Burwell fell, three Good Samaritans found their way down the rocks in an effort to rescue him and administer CPR.

"They acted quickly, they found a way to get down the cliff," Bender said. "They put themselves (in) jeopardy... They administered CPR to the person in attempt to save a life." 

One said he was just trying to be a good neighbor by working to save the man. Another, 13-year-old Thor Wilink, said he rushed from his home to help when he heard screams and someone yelling, "Help, please God, save me."

"After that, I heard, 'Does anyone have rope and a lapel?' and I know because I go to Yosemite, so I grabbed that, went down to the cliffs, and started to untangle the rope," he said.

That's when fire crews arrived.

"I only had one priority, to save the person," Thor said. "I only had one priority."

Thor recalled seeing a woman helping two surfers perform CPR, yelling instructions down at them. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. 

Bender warned people to be more aware of their surroundings. 

"Just like driving and using a cell phone, you don't want to be walking and using a cell phone or be distracted or anything," Bender said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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