Paul L. Vasquez, who shot to fame in the viral "double rainbow" video in 2010, died Saturday, the Mariposa County Coroner's Office in California confirmed. He passed away early that afternoon in the emergency room of John C. Fremont Hospital. He was 57.
Shortly after his death, Vasquez's friends and loved ones began posting on Facebook, paying tribute to him. "Somewhere over the Rainbows, Paul," one friend commented on his latest photo. Vasquez's cause of death is unclear, although he had recently posted on Facebook about being ill. On May 5, he was tested for the coronavirus and posted a photo, captioned in part, "I'll get my results in two days, however at this point I'm fairly certain that I don't have it. I didn't have a fever. Something else is going on with me."
Two days before that, he wrote that he was feverish and having trouble breathing, but had no intention of visiting a hospital, let alone dying in one. "Whatever happens I'm ready for it, I'm happy to experience it all, it might only be pollen and I'll have more time in my apartment, if it's the virus and it's my time to recycle I look forward to coming back to a new body and starting over, whatever happens I'm enjoying the ride," part of the May 3 post reads.
Vasquez became an internet sensation following his viral video taken in January 2010, shot from his mountainside home showing a set of rainbows. He noted in the caption that the camera could not capture the rainbows' intensity and brightness, but the strong response to the video was due to his awe-struck reaction to the rainbows.
In the 3-minute, 29-second clip, Vasquez cries out things like, "It's a double rainbow all the way across the sky!" and "It's so bright!" and "What does it all mean?" Several "whoas," "whoos" and "oh my Gods" are interspersed throughout, as are tears and laughs. The instant internet hit made him more than just a meme-maker's paradise; he made ads for Smartwater, Microsoft and Delta Air Lines. He was a guest on talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live and Comedy Central's Tosh.0. An Auto-Tuned remix version of the video by Brooklyn-based band The Gregory Brothers became a hit, and Vasquez was even a nominee at the People's Choice Awards for Viral Video Star.
Vasquez's friend, Robert Borchard, told The Modesto Bee that Vasquez was an "amazing character," adding that "His 'Double Rainbow' basically wrote the book on what a viral video was." He described him as "a bright spot, always enthusiastic about the world."
Vasquez was divorced and had two grown children, a son and a daughter. For decades, he lived alone in a mobile home on mountainside property 10 miles from Yosemite, where he once worked for a park concessionaire as a security officer, emergency medical technician and firefighter. He then worked for the National Park Service, posting public signs and fixing utilities as a seasonal worker. He told CNN that his solitude allowed him to connect to nature on a deep level and gave him a freedom most people don't have.