Colleagues of paleontologist Mike Getty denied the 50-year-old died from exposure to fossil bacteria, saying no germ could survive millions of years. Getty died Monday in Colorado.
Colleagues of world famous paleontologist Mike Getty shot down speculation that the 50-year-old died from exposure to ancient bacteria in dinosaur fossils while he was working on an excavation site in Colorado on Monday.
Getty, who was the chief fossil preparator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, died shortly after he complained that he felt sick and collapsed, DailyMail.com exclusively learned.
Friends and co-workers of the dinosaur expert claim that he was fit and had no preexisting medical conditions that could have caused his sudden death.
Fellow paleontologists also denied that Getty's mysterious death was caused by bacteria from fossils, the experts exclusively told DailyMail.com.
Hillary McLean, 26, a fossil preparator who says Getty was like a second father to her, said: 'There is no bacteria out there that would be able to last that long, that would still be viable.'
Due to the unusual circumstances of his death, an autopsy will now be performed by the Adams County Coroner, with results expected in approximately 10 weeks.
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Paleontologist Mike Getty (pictured) complained he felt sick right before he collapsed while seated on a cooler box and died aged 50 during a fossil dig in Thornton, Colorado, on Monday
Fellow paleontologists shot down speculation that ancient bacteria hidden in the dig site could be to blame, saying no germ could survive millions of years. Pictured: Getty with friend Lisa Holowinski
Pictured: The construction site in Thornton, Colorado, where Getty died during a dinosaur dig
McLean stated that no germ could survive inside a fossil for millions of years, adding: 'To my knowledge, I have never heard of anything like this being caused by a paleontological find.
'There's a big difference – this isn't archaeology, this isn't human remains; this is dinosaur remains so they're millions and millions of years old.'
Friends who were with Getty said he complained of feeling ill moments before he collapsed while seated on a cooler box.
He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Westminster Hospital at 3.45pm and had no pulse when emergency services arrived to the scene.
Friends of the twice-married dinosaur expert said he was initially thought to have been suffering from heat exhaustion but died within minutes of telling colleagues he felt unwell.
Retired mechanical engineer Bob Buck, 71, who has known Getty since meeting him on a dig in Utah in 2012, told DailyMail.com he had been lifting heavy equipment shortly before he collapsed, but said that it was nothing out of the ordinary.
And Lisa Holowinski, 37, a close friend who was at the hospital when Getty died, said the famous fossil finder was so fit 'he could hike a mountain for breakfast' and had no underlying medical conditions except for psoriasis.
Holowinski, 37, (far left) was at the hospital when Getty (second to right) died, said the famous fossil finder was so fit 'he could hike a mountain for breakfast' and had no underlying medical conditions except for psoriasis
Holowinski (pictured with Getty) said of Getty: 'He basically just stopped in his tracks. He wasn't feeling well and the next thing you know, he was dead'
Speaking about Getty's final moments, Holowinski said: 'He basically just stopped in his tracks. 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.'
Buck 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.'
Plans for Getty's funeral are now being underway, although it has not yet been decided whether he will be buried in his native Canada or in one of his adopted home states of Utah and Colorado.
Getty was initially thought to be suffering from heat exhaustion but an autopsy will be conducted to confirm his cause of death
Plans for Getty's funeral are now being underway, although it has not yet been decided whether he will be buried in his native Canada or in one of his adopted home states of Utah and Colorado. Pictured: The site where Getty died
Friends told DailyMail.com that a memorial service is being planned in Denver next week, while colleagues are also understood to be contemplating a ceremony next month.
Getty's passion for fossils began during his childhood in Western Canada and he later studied at the University of Calgary, where he completed undergraduate and Master's degree courses.
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 herbivore that looked similar to the horned Triceratops.
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.
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 seven feet in length and, in total, were up to 25 feet long.
Hillary McLean, 26, (bottom far left) a fossil preparator said Getty (rear center) was like a second father to her
Getty (bottom) was a world famous paleontologist and had an entire species of dinosaur named after him – the Utahceratops gettyi – due to one of his discoveries. Pictured: Getty with his Triceratops excavation team in Thornton, Colorado
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 in at 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.
The Museum announced his death on Tuesday, describing it as 'unexpected' in a statement and offering condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Most recently, Getty had been working with the team excavating the remains of a Triceratops dinosaur discovered on the site of a new Fire and Police Substation in Thornton on August 25.
The site, which sits close to a swathe of new build homes in the Denver suburb, was busy with construction workers when DailyMail.com visited on Wednesday.
According to Buck, a regular volunteer who spent last week working on the dig, paleontologists from the Museum are usually there every day, including Saturdays.
So far, discoveries 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.
Getty's friends have vowed to continue the work on the Triceratops in Getty's memory, who they describe as 'generous', 'hilarious' and 'caring'
Buck and other friends have now vowed to continue the work on the Triceratops in Getty's memory, who they describe as 'generous', 'hilarious' and 'caring'.
Remembering Getty, Holowinski said: 'He [was] an interesting person. He not only worked hard but he played hard too.
'He put all of his effort into whatever he was doing so when he was working on the fossils, he was absolutely focused on finding the fossils, recovering the fossils, jacketing and preparing them.
'But as soon as the day was over and we would go off to camp, his mood changed from work to fun and he was the most fun person to be around.
'He was just the life of the party. You could dare him to do something and he would never back down from a dare.'
McLean, who spent the summer working in Montana and calls Getty her mentor, added: 'He was so unbelievably generous with himself.'
Getty was the chief fossil preparator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, previously working at Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada and the Natural History Museum of Utah
Colleagues named the Utahceratops gettyi after Getty when he discovered its remains in Utah in 2010. The dinosaur, which is a relation of the more famous Triceratops, had a skull that measured up to seven feet in length and, in total, were up to 25 feet long (pictured)
McLean added: 'He was a bit rough around the edges at times. He was pretty hilarious when he was out on digs; he would wear clothing until it was practically falling off of him.
'But he was somebody who if you needed anything, he would do everything in his power to get that for you.'
Buck, who last saw Getty during a dinner on Saturday night following a day of digging, told DailyMail.com that although things will never be the same, he and his colleagues owe it to the 50-year-old to finish what he started.
'We're doing what Mike wanted us to do, what he wants us to do,' he said. 'I don't know if I'll ever love [paleontology] as much as Mike did, but I intend to be doing this for as long as I'm able.
'I think we all are. It's going to be tough without Mike but we'll carry on. We have to. We have so much work to do.
'We have to carry on Mike's tradition. I don't think any of us can be so in tune with the dinosaurs of the American West as Mike [was] but we're going to try.'
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