Freak Beach Accident Claims Life of Environmental Leader

Rainforest Action Network head dies on vacation

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    Actor Chris Noth and acting Executive Director of RAN Rebecca Tarbotton pose for a photo during the 25th anniversary party for Rainforest Action Network at Le Poisson Rouge on April 29, 2010 in New York City. Tarbotton, 39, died Wednesday while on vacation in Mexico.

    A major environmental activist and leader died in a "freak accident" while on vacation in Mexico, according to reports.

    Rebecca Tarbotton, 39, of Oakland, was executive director of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network. She was on vacation near Puerto Vallarta when she collapsed after playing in rough surf. The cause of death was water inhalation; she died of asphyxia, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

    Tarbotton was the first woman to lead the Rainforest Action Network, and successfully lobbied Disney this year not to use paper from endangered rainforests or areas in conflict, the newspaper reported. It was called "the most historic victory" in the group's history.

    She worked for Rainforest Action Network for six years, after an eight-year stint in northern India and other activist roles in the United Kingdom and California.

    A native of Canada, Tarbotton leaves behind her husband, Matteo. Public memorial services will be held in both San Francisco and in Vancouver.