Paul L. Vasquez, the burly but big-hearted nature lover who became an internet sensation in 2010 after posting his awe-struck reaction to a double rainbow, died Saturday in Central California, The Modesto Bee reports.
A cause of death has yet to be announced, although in recent weeks Vasquez had been posting on Facebook that he’d been feeling sick with a high fever and trouble breathing. On May 5th, he said he was tested for COVID-19, and though he said he’d get the results back in two days he never shared an update.
By all accounts, Vasquez lived a remarkable and impressive life. Per a 2015 CNN profile, he was born in East Los Angeles and got his first job as a firefighter for L.A. County. He then moved to the area around Yosemite National Park and worked as everything from a security officer to an emergency medical technician to a utility man to a firefighter once more. He spent 10 years as a long-haul trucker, and at one point was even a professional cage fighter (he participated in just one match and lost).
Then, in January 2010, Vasquez posted a video on his YouTube page of a sprawling double rainbow in Yosemite. Vasquez’s narration was ecstatic and emotional — he can be heard crying at different points during the video — although it was also tinged with that classic California “Woah, man” vibe. “It’s starting to even look like a triple rainbow,” he marveled at one point. “Oh, my God, it’s full-on — double rainbow all the way across the sky! … What does this mean?”
The video didn’t go viral immediately, but by the summer, Vasquez had become an internet sensation, thanks in part to Jimmy Kimmel, who shared the clip on Twitter and later invited Vasquez onto his show. His success came with all the trappings of early 2010s internet fame — the “double rainbow” video was Auto-Tuned, and even covered by Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young). Vasquez scored some promotional deals out of it as well, appearing in commercials for Smartwater, Microsoft, Delta, and the telecom company Vodafone New Zealand.
Vasquez continued to post regularly on YouTube over the next 10 years, chronicling every aspect of his life, from mundane moments to other marvelous nature scenes. Although none ever garnered as much attention as the “double rainbow” video — which has more than 47 million views as of publication — Vasquez seemed more than content with that. “My life is almost exactly the same as it was before,” he said in the 2015 CNN profile. “The only thing that really changes is that I do a lot of interviews.”