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He went hiking in the Mount Baker foothills and was found dead several days later

Julio Lopez, 44, died from complications of childhood diabetes while hiking on a remote trail in the Mount Baker foothills on New Year’s Day, officials said.
Julio Lopez, 44, died from complications of childhood diabetes while hiking on a remote trail in the Mount Baker foothills on New Year’s Day, officials said. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Bellingham man who was found dead last week in the Mount Baker foothills died of natural causes during a New Year’s Day outing, officials said.

Julio Lopez, 44, died from complications of childhood diabetes, said Dr. Gary Goldfogel, Whatcom County medical examiner.

“His death is attributed to natural manner as a consequence of his chronic illness,” Goldfogel said. He said there was no indication of trauma or foul play, and that Lopez likely died on the day he left.

“Nothing suggests he suffered, or struggled or was lost or incapacitated for an extended period of time,” Goldfogel said.

Friends and roommates told authorities that Lopez – an avid snowboarder, hiker and mountain biker – never returned from a New Year’s Day outing and reported him missing to Bellingham Police on the evening of January 3. His phone last sent a signal around 3 p.m. New Year’s Day near Kendall, family members and sheriff’s officials said.

Lopez’s niece, Cici Gonzalez of Southern California, said her uncle had lived in Bellingham for about a year and worked at the Safeway store in Bellingham.

(He) always had a smile on his face and telling jokes.

Amy Aguiar, on a GoFundMe page

“My uncle was one of the kindest people I know,” she said via Facebook Messenger. “If he saw someone was having a bad day he would make it his job to cheer them up. Even if he didn’t know the person, he would put a smile on everyone’s face that crossed his path, and yes if you were in need he would drop everything to help you.”

Friends found his car at parked off Mount Baker Highway about 1.5 miles west of Glacier on January 4, said Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Jilk. A Sheriff’s Office search and rescue team was joined by a Border Patrol search team with a dog, along with volunteers and several of Lopez’s friends.

Lopez’s body was found January 5 along a dry creek bed about 300 yards from where his car was parked, Sheriff Bill Elfo said.

A GoFundMe appeal recently ended after raising $15,633 of a $10,000 goal to return Lopez’s body to his native San Diego.

“(He) always had a smile on his face and telling jokes,” said Amy Aguiar of Lakeside California, who started the Go Fund Me effort. “If you ever needed help he would be the first person to lend a hand.”

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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