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Half Dome Death: Hiker is Yosemite Death No. 17

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 26, 2011 9:47 AM

The recent Yosemite Half Dome death marks the 17th death in the national park this year. Ryan Leeder, 23, fell thousands of feet to his death at around 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

Leeder was a native of Bonny Doon, located close to Santa Cruz, California. He was currently residing in San Jose, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Fellow hikers heard Leeder scream and watched him fall Monday night. Authorities were not able to search for his body until the following day due to darkening conditions.

Officials say that Leeder was climbing Half Dome using the cable system that the park service installed on the Yosemite monument. He also appeared properly equipped, according to the Huffington Post.

A spokesman indicated that they believe that he either fell or jumped on purpose after crossing the flat summit, reports NBC Bay Area.

Leeder's tragic death has been one of many this year. Five of the 17 deaths at Yosemite this year have been the result of natural causes like heart attacks. The remaining 12 have included tourists falling and drowning from various parts of the park, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Many of the deaths this year seem to have occurred as a result of natural conditions. Rain and strong currents in streams can create dangerous conditions that claim the lives of visitors.

Would the park service be liable for deaths that occur in Yosemite? Well, it could be if they failed to warn visitors of certain dangers. Or, if they improperly maintained the hiking trails and cables to Half Dome.

So far, there is no indication that any of the deaths have been the result of negligence on the part of the park service.

Authorities are still investigating Ryan Leeder's recent Half Dome death. Yosemite usually sees about 12 to 15 fatalities a year, marking this year as especially dangerous with 17 deaths by August, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Visitors should be aware and take precautions if going up and down trails, and be careful to heed warning signs.

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