Man Distracted By Device While Taking Pictures Falls Off California Cliff

A man distracted by an electronic device fell to his death on Christmas Day. Witnesses that heard his screams for help rushed to save him, but they were not successful, according to NBC News San Diego.

The incident occurred around 5 p.m. on Christmas Day. The man was seen walking along Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, but his attention was not focused on where he was walking. He was seen looking down at a device he held in his hand. The distraction caused him to lose his footing, and he fell 60-feet to the ground below.

He did not die immediately, according to one eyewitness – a teenage boy that lived near the location of the fall. The teenager, a boy aged 13 named Thor Wilink, rushed from his home when he heard the man screaming for someone to help him. He rushed back home to grab climbing supplies in order to assist others that wanted to climb down to help the man.

The teen spoke to NBC News about the incident.

“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. I only had one priority, to save the person. I only had one priority.”

The teen watched two people attempt to give the man CPR, but he was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived at the scene. The identity of the man has now been released. He is a 33-year-old man named Joshua M Burwell from Sheridan, Indiana.

Bill Bender, a San Diego lifeguard, shared more details about the incident to the media.

“Witnesses stated seeing someone distracted by an electronic device and he just fell over the edge. He wasn’t watching where he was walking, he was looking down at the device in his hands. They acted quickly, they found a way to get down the cliff. They put themselves at jeopardy…They administered CPR to the person in attempt to save a life.”

The device is being called a camera or a cell phone, but it has not yet been found at the scene. Bender made it clear that it is important to watch where you are walking when on your cell phone. A fall can cause serious injury or even death.

According to FOX San Diego, he said, “Just like driving and using your cellphone, you don’t want to be walking and using you cell phone. You don’t want to be distracted by anything when you’re in an area where you can be put at risk.”

This is not the only death related to a cell phone that does not involve a car in 2015. Back in September, the Huffington Post reported that a man fell down a flight of stairs at the Taj Mahal while taking a cell phone selfie. The Japanese man was rushed to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead once he arrived. An autopsy revealed that the man died of a heart attack, which likely happened during the fall.

The same Huffington Post report shared other incidents that happened in recent months where cell phone selfies were involved. In one incident, a man shot himself while trying to take a selfie while holding his gun.

Some locations have banned selfies because of the risks involved. It is usually deaths caused by texting while driving that receive most of the attention, but more deaths are happening because of selfies and other cell phone distractions outside of driving.

According to Huffington Post, 46 states have banned texting and cell phone use while people are driving. Laws are strict on this type of behavior now, but there is no way to ban cell phone use at other times.

In the case of Joshua Burwell, he was simply not looking where he was going. One moment of distraction caused him his life.

What do you think of this story? Have you allowed your cell phone to distract you in a way that could be considered dangerous?

UPDATE: The man’s mother updated about her son’s death on Facebook. According to, she said that, “We found out today that Joshua was killed in a fall while taking pictures from the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean in San Diego. We are heartbroken.”

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