EXCLUSIVE: Autopsy reveals renowned paleontologist who collapsed during a dig did NOT die of an ancient virus hidden in fossils but of a heart attack brought on by a 'social history' of drinking, smoking and marijuana use

  • Mike Getty, 50, died unexpectedly after complaining about feeling unwell while working on a dinosaur dig in Thornton, Colorado on September 11
  • In the wake of his death, it was suggested Getty died from an ancient virus hidden in the fossils he was working on?
  • An autopsy report obtained by DailyMail.com reveals the famed fossil hunter died of a heart attack?
  • Documents show Getty had a 'social history' cigarette smoking, use of vapor pens, social drinking, and marijuana use, which contributed to his death?

The world-famous paleontologist who died unexpectedly in September had a social history of cigarette smoking, using vapor pens, social drinking and marijuana use, DailyMail.com can reveal.?

Although friends said at the time of his death that he had no bad habits, an autopsy revealed Mike Getty died of a heart attack and listed those as contributing factors.?

Outwardly fit and healthy, Getty was working on a dinosaur dig in Thornton, Colorado, on September 11 when he complained of feeling unwell and collapsed unexpectedly.

The 50-year-old was rushed to nearby Westminster Hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at around 3pm the same day.

In the wake of his death, a number of bizarre explanations were put forward, including that he succumbed to an ancient virus hidden in the fossils he was working on.

But the autopsy report, exclusively obtained by DailyMail.com, shows that the real cause of Getty's early death was an 'acute myocardial infarction' – or heart attack.

World-renowned paleontologist Mike Getty (pictured) died suddenly while working in an excavation site after he had complained about feeling ill on September 11?

World-renowned paleontologist Mike Getty (pictured) died suddenly while working in an excavation site after he had complained about feeling ill on September 11?

Getty's autopsy has revealed he died of a heart attack
His sudden death prompted a slew of bizarre theories including one suggestion that he succumbed to an ancient virus hidden in the fossils he was working on

Getty's autopsy has revealed he died of a heart attack. His sudden death prompted a slew of bizarre theories including one suggestion that he succumbed to an ancient virus hidden in the fossils he was working on?

According to the document, which was put together by the Adams County Coroner, the heart attack occurred due to underlying coronary artery disease.

Typical symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain, although for many, the first indication that the disease is present comes when the patient suffers a heart attack – in Getty's case, fatally.

Along with hypertension, the report notes that Getty had a 'social history' of 'cigarette smoking, use of vapor pens, social drinking, and marijuana use' which also contributed to his death.

He was also found to have sustained cracked ribs while being given CPR, as medics battled to save his life.

Getty, who was the chief fossil preparator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science at the time of his death, was born in Canada but spent most of his adult life in Arizona and Utah.

While still living in Canada, he worked for the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, and led expeditions into the Dinosaur Provincial Park where he helped uncover the remains of huge herds of Centrosaur dinosaurs – a member of the horned Triceratops family.

Later, he moved to US to take up a position at the Natural History Museum of Utah where he spent 13 years running the fossil lab and had an entire species of dinosaur named after him – the Utahceratops gettyi.

Getty was the chief preparator at Denver Museum of Nature and Science?at the time of his death and previously spent?spent 13 years running the fossil lab and had an entire species of dinosaur named after him ? the Utahceratops gettyi

Getty was the chief preparator at Denver Museum of Nature and Science?at the time of his death and previously spent?spent 13 years running the fossil lab and had an entire species of dinosaur named after him – the Utahceratops gettyi

The Utahcertops: Getty discovered this specimen during a dig at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2010. It was believed to measure up to 25ft long?

The Utahcertops: Getty discovered this specimen during a dig at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2010. It was believed to measure up to 25ft long?

The herbivorous animals, whose name means 'horned face from Utah', occupied the southern part of the state during the Late Cretaceous Period, roughly 76.4 to 75.5 million years ago.

Utahceratops, which are a relation of the more famous Triceratops, had skulls that measured up to 7ft in length and, in total, were up to 25ft long.

Getty discovered the holotype – or initial specimen – during a dig at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2010.

The discovery was his second major find, having unearthed a new species of oviraptorosaur – a parrot-beaked omnivorous dinosaur – in the same area in 2002.

Named the Hagryphus giganteus, the feathered beast lived in Utah during the Late Cretaceous Period, walked on two legs and could weigh up to 110lb.

In 2013, Getty took up a new position at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where he was still working at the time of his death.

On the day of his demise, he was overseeing a dig in the Denver suburb of Thornton; located on a building site where the remains of a triceratops dinosaur were uncovered late last August.

This is the excavation site in Thornton, Colorado, where Getty died during a dinosaur dig

This is the excavation site in Thornton, Colorado, where Getty died during a dinosaur dig

Discoveries so far include most of the skull, as well as a rib, shoulder blade and vertebrae. A tooth, thought to be from a scavenging Tyrannosaurus Rex, has also been found.

According to close friend Lisa Holowinski, 37, who was at the hospital when Getty passed away, the paleontologist had complained of feeling unwell at around 2.30pm that day.

Colleagues initially thought that the 50-year-old was suffering from heat exhaustion but 15 minutes later, he collapsed and was pronounced dead at 3pm – just 30 minutes after first becoming ill.

'He basically just stopped in his tracks,' Holowinski told DailyMail.com in September. 'His co-worker who is a lab assistant [and who was also at the hospital], she just said during the dig on Monday, Mike had come up to her and said he wasn't feeling well.

'So she said 'why don't you go sit in the truck, turn on the engine and turn on the air conditioning and you'll be better off'.

'She thought maybe it was getting too hot outside and he was suffering from heat exhaustion. She turned around and Mike had sat down on the cooler but then shortly after, he slumped over and he was unconscious.

'By the time the EMT arrived, he had no pulse and so he went very, very quickly. He said he wasn't feeling well and the next thing you know, he was dead.'

Retired mechanical engineer Bob Buck, 71, was volunteering at the dig on the day and said Getty had been lifting heavy equipment shortly before he collapsed but noted that was not unusual.

Getty's close friend Lisa Holowinski (right) 37, was at the hospital when Getty passed away. She initially believed he was suffering from heat exhaustion?

Getty's close friend Lisa Holowinski (right) 37, was at the hospital when Getty passed away. She initially believed he was suffering from heat exhaustion?

Friends described the fossil hunter as a man with a 'quirky'personality' and as an?energetic excavator also traversed the world doing what he loved?

Friends described the fossil hunter as a man with a 'quirky'personality' and as an?energetic excavator also traversed the world doing what he loved?

Fellow paleontologists were also quick to shut down some of the more outlandish theories put forward in the wake of his death, such as Getty being exposed to ancient bacteria present at the site

Fellow paleontologists were also quick to shut down some of the more outlandish theories put forward in the wake of his death, such as Getty being exposed to ancient bacteria present at the site

He added: 'Maybe he didn't know anything until the last moment. It was just one of those things I guess.

'He had just finished helping lifting some heavy things which Mike always does and he just sat down and said he didn't feel very good. The only good thing is Mike died doing what he loved.'

Fellow paleontologists were also quick to rubbish some of the more outlandish theories put forward in the wake of his death; claims now borne out by the autopsy report.

Discussing that Getty could have died as a result of being exposed to ancient bacteria present at the site, fossil preparator Hillary McLean, 26, said:

'There is no bacteria out there that would be able to last that long, that would still be viable.'

A construction accident was ruled out immediately after Getty died by his final employer, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

On the autopsy report, the paleontologist's death was officially recorded as being the result of natural causes.

The Museum is now hoping to construct an art wall in Getty's memory which will be housed inside the Volunteer Engagement Center in downtown Denver.

To be named the Volunteer Inspiration Art Wall, the installation will eventually include 205 unique images of fossils and other artifacts, along with an inscription honoring the late paleontologist.?

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