Well-known doctor dies in Pinnacles climbing accident

Volcanic remnants are among the defining characteristics of Pinnacles.

Joseph Kraut, Jr., 55, a Morgan Hill physician well-known and beloved by patients throughout southern Santa Clara County, died in a rock climbing accident at Pinnacles National Park on Tuesday, according to authorities.
Kraut had been climbing with a “close friend” at the park in southwest San Benito County, according to Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor. He was on a rope  descending a section of the “Liberty Wall” rock face when a piece of belaying equipment held by his friend and climbing partner—who was on the ground securing the other end of Kraut’s rope—apparently malfunctioned.
The rope gave way and Kraut lost his footing, falling from about 30 feet onto the ground below, Taylor said. The accident happened about 10 a.m.
Kraut’s friend immediately blew his emergency whistle, summoning the park’s search and rescue team, which was already in the field, Taylor added.
A CalFire helicopter arrived “within a matter of minutes” and carried Kraut to the front entrance of the park, meeting up with a second helicopter from Calstar, according to Taylor. While Kraut was being transferred to the Calstar vessel, he was pronounced dead by paramedics.
Taylor said authorities have not determined an exact cause of death, but Kraut suffered injuries to his back and head, “which would have been consistent with him falling from that distance.”
Kraut, a Morgan Hill resident, was an internal medicine physician with an office on Butterfield Boulevard, where he practiced with his wife, Dr. Rebecca Kroll. He was affiliated with Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy and has served South County patients for more than 25 years.
SLRH President and CEO James Dover released a statement about Kraut’s death.
“We have lost an excellent physician,” Dover’s statement read. “He was an example of what every physician should be: compassionate, intelligent, respectful and well-liked by his physician colleagues, employees and community members. He served the Gilroy and Morgan Hill communities since 1986. Our hearts and prayers go out to Dr. Kraut’s wife Dr. Becky Kroll and their family.”
Kraut’s father, Dr. Joseph Kraut, Sr., was also a physician at SLRH, according to the hospital’s statement.
Pinnacles National Park is known as a popular rock climbing destination. Kraut was an avid rock climber, according to users of an online discussion forum at supertopo.com.
A discussion on that site, titled “Fatal climbing accident at pinnacles today 7-15-2014,” lists 21 comments about the accident since 6:43 p.m. July 15.

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