Autopsy shows former Sunnyside man died in Oregon from hypothermia

ONTARIO, ORE. - Israel "Mikey" Zuniga, 27, a former resident of Sunnyside, died on New Year's day, but until this past Monday, Jan. 10, the cause was considered suspicious.

Zuniga and his girlfriend, according to Ontario, Ore. police, left a New Year's Eve party Saturday, Jan. 1. The couple got into an argument and Zuniga, who resided in Fruitland, Idaho at the time of his death, insisted his girlfriend let him out of the vehicle they were traveling in.

Ontario Interim Police Chief Mark Alexander said the girlfriend last saw him walking away from the vehicle at about 1 a.m. Jan. 1.

"He wasn't wearing adequate clothing for the temperatures," said Alexander.

Monday, Jan. 3, a supervisor at a trucking business near the location of Zuniga's last-known whereabouts discovered the 27-year-old's body beneath a trailer.

"He was found with a tire resting on his feet," said Alexander, surmising a driver moved the trailer during the early morning hours and inadvertently ran over Zuniga, believed to have already died.

"The driver felt badly," Alexander said, adding the practice of moving trailers to prevent the tires from becoming frozen to the ground is normal.

But, moving the trailer, Alexander said, did not contribute to the death. "It's just an unfortunate incident," Alexander noted.

He said the death was initially considered suspicious and an investigation was conducted because of the two-day time lapse between Zuniga's body being discovered and the last contact with him.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office in Clackamas, Ore. conducted an autopsy this past Monday and determined the cause of death was hypothermia.

Alexander said the death was accidental and there was no evidence of foul play. A toxicology report is still pending.


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