Coroner rules gay Atlanta man’s death ‘accident’

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Alcohol likely contributed to the tragic death of a 24-year-old gay Atlanta cheerleader and model found inside a ventilation system of a Midtown parking garage in December.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner ruled Josh Nicholson's Dec. 12 death an accident caused by injuries to his head from a ventilation system fan, according to Mark Guilbeau, a senior investigator with the medical examiner's office. Alcohol was also cited as a significant condition contributing to his death, Guilbeau said. No other drugs were detected in Nicholson's body, he said.

“This man was intoxicated and had an unfortunate accident,” Guilbeau said. 

Nicholson's body was discovered about 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 12 inside the seventh floor fan compartment of a parking garage at 1075 Peachtree Street. The structure is part of the 12th & Midtown mixed use development that includes retail space, the Loews Atlanta Hotel and apartments. Nicholson's body was found just feet from an entrance to the hotel, though Loews officials have said he was not a guest or employee of the hotel.

Atlanta police have said there were no signs of foul play and were awaiting a cause of death and toxicology results from the medical examiner. Nicholson's death certificate was signed on March 11 and the medical examiner's office considers the case closed, Guilbeau said.

Nicholson's death prompted best-selling author Karen Mueller Bryson to dedicate her latest novel to him. “Finding Fisher” includes a passage from Nicholson's parents and a portion of the proceeds from the book's sale will be donated to Joining Hearts. The group supports HIV charities through a series of fundraisers, including an annual pool party in July that Nicholson has attended.

Nicholson, an Atlanta native and graduate of Norcross High School and Kennesaw State University, remained a competitive cheerleader after college, according to his obituary. He sometimes worked in gay Atlanta bars and was known for his “charismatic personality” and “passion for life.”

Photo by Eric McKinney

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