Alaska Airlines pilot found dead near I-5 died of natural causes

The 55-year-old veteran Alaska Airlines pilot found dead on a 5 Freeway offramp in Burbank in October died of natural causes, authorities said Thursday.

The man — Lee Morris of Richland, Wash. — died of atherosclerotic heart disease, said Los Angeles County Coroner spokesman Craig Harvey. The disease results in a build-up of plaque in the arteries.

Morris had no external injuries and there was no indication of foul play, Harvey said.

The 26-year pilot had passed regular physical check-ups and appeared to be in good health, Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy said shortly after Morris’ death.

All Alaska Airline captains undergo a physical exam twice a year, he added.

But according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, some people who have atherosclerosis have no signs or symptoms and may not be diagnosed until after a heart attack or stroke.

Burbank police had no other details Thursday on why Morris was walking near the freeway.

When the coroner determines a death was the result of natural causes, investigators close the case, said Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn.

Morris’ death on Oct. 2 stunned loved ones and co-workers, who remembered him as a fun-loving grandfather with a love for golf, the Seattle Mariners and camping on the Columbia River.

Alaska Airlines First Officer John Allison described Morris in October as a “great pilot” who commanded a “safe, efficient ship.”

Morris landed at Bob Hope Airport on Oct. 1 and was scheduled to fly out the next morning, but didn’t report to work.

His body was discovered later that evening along the Scott Road offramp of the southbound 5 Freeway.

On Thursday, McElroy said the coroner’s findings would bring some closure.

“We remain deeply saddened by loss of Capt. Morris and knowing the official cause of his passing helps bring closure to his family and our employees,” McElroy said.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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