Texas teenager dies in Utah wilderness program
By Rich Vosepka, Associated Press
The Daily Camera, July 16, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY A Texas teenager who died at a wilderness program for troubled youth was healthy but overweight when he set out on the fatal desert hike during a heat wave, state officials said.

Ian August, 14, of Austin died while hiking with a group from the Skyline Journey youth program in Utah's west desert Saturday. He was the fifth teenager to die in a Utah wilderness therapy program since 1990.

The boy was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed around 200 pounds, Carol Sisco, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Human Services, said Monday. Two recent medical examinations had found the boy to be in good health.

The high temperature about 70 miles away reached 110 degrees Saturday, and preliminary autopsy results suggest the death was heat-related, said Millard County Sheriff Ed Phillips. However, the sheriff said he was waiting for results from a toxicology test.

"I really can't make an official assessment at this juncture. Delta and Fillmore were 110 degrees that day. We do know they were out hiking in those temperatures," the sheriff said.

However, Ken Stettler, director of the Office of Licensing for the Utah Department of Human Services, which sets standards for programs like Skyline Journey, noted the youth group was hiking at a higher elevation, around 7,000 feet, where the air would be somewhat cooler.

Counselors carry thermometers and are required by state regulations to stop hiking if the temperature reaches 95 degrees, Stettler said. There was no initial indication that the youth group violated regulations or failed to bring enough water, he said.

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One of the counselors was a licensed emergency medical technician and realized the boy was in serious trouble, Stettler said. Help was summoned with a cellular phone, but "he was dead by the time the ambulance got there," Sisco said.

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