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Ventura Hiker, 22, Dies of Heatstroke

Man succumbs on the day before his 23rd birthday after climbing the popular Boney Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

September 22, 2003|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

In what authorities described Sunday as a rare and tragic occurrence, a young Ventura man died of heatstroke after collapsing during a hike on the popular but rigorous Boney Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Despite drinking plenty of water and taking frequent breaks, John Andrew Doyle, 22, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on his descent from the peak about 5 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

Doyle, known to his family as "Andy," was pronounced dead two hours later at a Thousand Oaks hospital. He died the day before what would have been his 23rd birthday.

At the time he reached the hospital by helicopter, his body temperature had soared to more than 107 degrees, authorities said.

"This is very uncommon for us," said Kris Carraway-Bowman, spokeswoman for Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. "In fact, the only time we have seen a body temperature in that range was when actor Martin Lawrence came to us a couple of years ago."

In 1999, Lawrence fell into a three-day coma after going for a jog in a rubber suit and wool cap on a hot summer day. Although his body temperature also had reached 107 degrees, Lawrence fully recovered.

Doyle had graduated from Purdue University in Indiana in May. He had just moved into his Ventura apartment and had started a job in June as a civil engineer at the Ventura firm of Willdan Associates.

"It's beyond imagination that something like this could happen at the start of his life, his career," said Jeanne Norberg, a Purdue spokeswoman. "Purdue is one of the best schools in the country and he completed a demanding curriculum, and it's just so sad that he had gotten so far and then this tragedy occurs."

Authorities said Doyle's mother, Jeanne Doyle, lives in Sellersburg in southeastern Indiana, and that Doyle was raised there. The young man's father and stepmother, John and Terrye Doyle, have lived in Oxnard for the past two years.

"He came to see us after we first moved here and absolutely adored the ocean," a tearful Terrye Doyle said Sunday. "It was the first time he had ever seen it."

Terrye Doyle said her stepson was quiet and shy, but very caring. She said he enjoyed the mountains, the family's 14-year-old dog, "Heddy," ham radios, and sailing on his father's boat at Channel Islands Harbor.

"Everyone adored him," Terrye Doyle said.

Authorities said that John Doyle and two work colleagues, both of whom were experienced hikers, set out about 11 a.m. Saturday from the trailhead near the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center in Newbury Park on a round-trip hike of about 10 miles. The afternoon temperature reached the high 80s.

About a mile into the ascent, authorities said, Doyle complained of being hot and possibly wanting to turn around. After the trio took a break, Doyle said he was feeling better and he changed from his dark T-shirt into a light-colored one borrowed from one of his friends, authorities said.

Doyle was dressed appropriately, authorities said. He wore hiking boots and regularly drank water during the hike.

The group reached the trail's pinnacle and rested again before beginning the return trip. A couple of miles into the trip down, Doyle became flushed and disoriented and fell several times, authorities said. His hiking buddies first thought the falls were due to the rugged, rocky terrain, but quickly realized there was a larger problem.

At one point, Doyle fell again, dragging one of his friends into some brush, authorities said. They got out of the brush but Doyle apparently couldn't go on. Doyle's friends tried giving him more water but he wouldn't drink it.

A passing hiker offered some cold water to pour on Doyle's head and tried calling for help, but his cell phone could not get a signal. Doyle whispered to his friends that he was OK, but one of them took off anyway, running nearly three miles to the culture center to call authorities.

Rescuers in a helicopter found Doyle and the other hikers near the Danielson Monument area. An emergency worker was lowered by ropes to assess Doyle's condition. During the assessment, Doyle went into full cardiac arrest. Workers tried to revive Doyle and he was packed in ice at the hospital, but efforts failed, authorities said.

Although Doyle was described as healthy, several factors may have contributed to the heatstroke, including the fact that he was an inexperienced hiker, authorities said. Heatstroke, though, can happen to anyone, they cautioned.

In addition to his parents, Doyle is survived by his sister, Katie Doyle of Oxnard, and a stepbrother and stepsister who live in Los Angeles.

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