Portions of the autopsy report on the deaths resulting James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge last fall have been released. It should come as no great surprise that the cause was heat exposure.
The autopsy showed that 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, NY, and 40-year-old James Shore of Milwaukee, both died of heat stroke, and were reportedly unconscious when emergency crews arrived at the site of the spiritual retreat near Sedona, Ariz.
The third person, 49-year-old Liz Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota, died after more than a week in the hospital form multiple organ failure due to hyperthermia from prolonged sweat lodge exposure.
During the Oct. 8, 2009 ceremony dozens of participants began feeling sick, vomiting and collapsing. Authorities believe self-help guru and motivational speaker Ray urged the attendees to push past their physical weaknesses, and shamed those who wanted to leave.
As I've previously written, this sweat lodge was abnormally hot, abnormally crowded, and abnormally long. It was also part of a pattern of highly questionable risk taking with seminar participants lives, over a period of years.
Much of the autopsy report is being withheld from the media, in part, because of requests from family members of the deceased. The trial to determine whether or not these deaths were caused by James Arthur Ray's negligence will begin in August.
When the judge returned from recess, he announced that 56 days would be established on the calendar, but he cautioned, "That may change."
The trial will run three and a half to four months, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day, four days each week, excepting weeks with holidays. The calendar calls for the trial to span from the first day Aug. 31 until Dec. 17.
So this will be a long and interesting trial.