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Thread: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

  1. #71
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    That report doesn't confirm anything about the victims themselves at all, Angus. That's a water sample test. We still don't know what got into them, where or when. That might take quite awhile longer to know - a lot of toxicology or forensic tests from the bodies themselves. There's not a shred of stated evidence so far that they even drank from the creek. And did you even read what I posted? Some of the chemicals known to be used by pot farmers can kill you in minutes, just touching a leaky container. I'm not saying that happened. But they were found not at Hite's Cove per se, but up a brushy side creek where someone might have once attempted to set up a grow operation nearby and left something behind. Just another hypothesis. But again, if the stream water is so damn toxic there, why aren't there dead mammals laying all around? Would these hikers have been so stupid as to give that kind of water to even their own baby? Unlikely. The algae idea doesn't make sense at all.

    And note where that water sample was specifically taken, if the report is correct - not there, but along the South Fork past a campground way over toward my nephew's area, quite a distance away, about half an hour by car. I don't know how many miles per se upstream from Hite's Cove, but quite a few.

  2. #72
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    True, the article says no toxicology results on the family have been released, only data about the toxins in the water near them.

    Anybody like math?

    From a science paper listed in Wikipedia’s article on anatoxin-a:

    “The toxic dose in humans is not known but is estimated to be less than 5 mg for an adult male.” (Source: Patockaa J, Stredab L. "Brief review of natural nonprotein neurotoxins". ASA Newsletter. 89 (2): 16–24)

    From the Fresno Bee article that Jody_S posted above:

    “Multiple types of cyanobacteria were detected in algal mats there [near where the family was found],” the results state, “along with anatoxin-a at 11.8 micrograms per liter. No other cyanotoxins were detected (i.e., microcystins, cylindrospermopsin, saxitoxin). Recommend continued posting of toxic algae alert advisory at recreation access points to this site and follow up monitoring to inform advisory postings.”

    Here's some simple math...

    5 mg (milligrams) of anatoxin-a = .005 grams
    11.8 micrograms of anatoxin-a per liter were found in the water = .0000118 grams

    .005 grams/.0000118 grams per liter = 423 liters of water

    The high temperature that day was above 100 F, but 423 liters would still be a lot to drink.

  3. #73
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    It would be crazy to drink water out or that stream regardless. It flows down through Wawona in Yosemite and other car camping areas, and past all kinds of cattle grazing, plus burnt areas and so forth. Might as well drink out of a toilet bowl. Hardly pristine. Giardia is almost certain. A young couple into routine hiking wouldn't typically be that dumb. They were carrying their own water. Hopefully that is being tested too.

  4. #74
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    A young couple into routine hiking wouldn't typically be that dumb. They were carrying their own water. Hopefully that is being tested too.
    Finally, a reporter who asks basic, important questions for readers and finds a good source who can address them.

    From today’s sfgate.com:

    https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/artic...P-CP-Spotlight

    An excellent (if brief) article, whose main source is:

    “Taylor Weiss, an assistant professor in environmental and resource management at the Polytechnic School at Arizona State University and a member of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation. He did his PhD on algae and has been studying it since he was 6 years old, he says, when his father — an environmental engineer — would filter algae samples at the kitchen table.”

    Quick highlights addressing questions from earlier in this thread:

    “There are no reported human deaths from toxic algae [ever]. This is largely due to the fact that adults do not often swallow large amounts of polluted water.”

    “After learning that anatoxin cannot be filtered out of water, SFGATE asked Mitchell whether a filter was discovered in the family’s belongings. The answer was no.”

    “According to Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kristie Mitchell, results from several toxicology reports — including a test of the water found in the family’s CamelBak — are still pending, and a timeframe for those becoming public is still not known.”

    These were experienced hikers on a short day hike from the car. Since they had no filter, my presumption is that they’d bring their own water, in the CamelBak they did have – not drink directly from a trailside water source.

    One more interesting insight about anatoxin: Even if it did enter their bodies through drinking, or some other means (i.e., splashes or aerosol), it might escape detection from the pending toxicology reports:

    “Anatoxin also breaks down fairly quickly and easily; it doesn’t stay in tissues very long, according to Weiss. For that reason, he says, he’ll be surprised if anatoxins show up in the toxicology reports for Gerrish and Chung.”

    What a tragic story and no answers even weeks later.

  5. #75
    Foamer
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    I'm still betting on a gas of some sort. Had to be something in the air to affect people and dog and drop them in their tracks.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  6. #76
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    There is the same warning about toxic algae in the Virgin River in Zion National Park right now, warning hikers not to swallow the water. There is no record of anyone actually dying from that - but flash floods, yes, many times. Last time I was there, saw a few people barely get out of the streambed in time, as giant logs were suddenly carried down. Some of the colors in the stagnant algal pools in the Narrows can be amazing. I've got color prints to prove it.

    Likewise, rattlers would seem to be a much greater threat on a stream hike in the Sierra foothills than someone being stupid enough to drink stinking fetid water. I'm still not convinced that foul play poisoning wasn't somehow involved. This kind of thing doesn't "just happen" out of the blue. There is no precedent for it in that area. Crime is a different story.

  7. #77

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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    I don't know what happened to these people - although on open ground in the Sierra foothills, I think being poisoned by toxic gases is extremely unlikely. It was over 100 degrees that day. I see a tendency to reason that because they hadn't drunk all their water, they weren't overcome by heat exhaustion, and that's not a good assumption. People suffering from temperature extremes (both heat exhaustion and hypothermia) often start to behave irrationally before reaching the point of no return. Further, just drinking water won't stave off heat stroke - one needs to get the subject out of the heat and to cool them (wet cloths or cooling packs on the body).

    I'm not entirely sure where they were found - was it away from the main trail? If they went up a side trail or off trail and stayed out longer than intended or got lost, that's a concern. Many accidents and SAR incidents begin with a delay or change of plans that causes hikers to be out later than intended, in unplanned-for cold, heat, or darkness.

  8. #78
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    It was on a grassy hillside above a brushy side canyon, along a loop trail that rises two thousand feet above the river canyon itself, perhaps halfway up. No known mine tunnels there, way above the polluted water. They were locals who allegedly hiked that same trail on a routine basis. The mother was found a moderate distance above the others. No possibility of hypothermia that time of year, even at night. Hard to say about high temperature - why would the dog drop dead right at the same spot? Loyal perhaps - but it would have gone for water eventually. No note left behind.

    All very strange unless a deliberate weird crime was involved. There are plenty of scenarios that could turn on a dime in that part of the world. It's right down the highway from the lower entrance to Yosemite. All kinds of people come through there. In terms of other residents of those hills, some are very nice, and there are plenty of retirees, but a few psychos, plenty of druggies (especially meth), and quite a number back in the hills of what could be classified as heavily armed survivalist / anti-govt / white supremacist types. It doesn't take much to spark a feud with someone at the extremes of social and racial opinion, especially if they're a druggie too. Or maybe they had seen or heard something just too specific about a local drug operation, and they were silenced with poison instead of an obvious method. In that case, local law enforcement might or might not prove helpful. I just don't know the exact situation there anymore. Twenty years ago I did; and the top cops WERE the drug entrepreneurs. They used little mountain airstrips to fly it in.

    Then who knows if there was a domestic difficulty we don't know about? Perhaps I see too many of those Whodunnit TV mysteries; but it obviously happens, and probably most of us have known someone in our lifetime or work environment it did happen to. Maybe this incident will never be solved.

  9. #79
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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    Toxic algae in Anderson Lake here on the Olympic Peninsula has forced the closing of the lake each summer since 2006. Our local newspaper, The Leader, reported a couple of years ago that two dogs had died after drinking the lake's water. There also was a rumor, which I cannot verify, that another dog died after just walking in the lake. In any event, the algae in the lake produce, as The Leader's site noted, a potent neurotoxin.
    Keith

  10. #80

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    Re: Deadly hike----Haz-Mat the cause?

    I agree with the gas hypothesis. For my doctorate I worked on geology of South African gold mines, thousands of feet underground. Bad air was not uncommon where ventilation was lacking. When miners inhaled bad air, they immediately collapsed and died. There was no question of them walking away from it, not even ten feet. So such a cloud could kill a family and their dog in seconds.

    However, I do not know circumstances that would cause this on the surface in the Sierras... You would think air flow might be pretty good...

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