Four deaths linked to heat

Elderly residents found in their homes Thursday

3 lived in city, 1 in Balto. County

Frederick fireman's death also attributed to weather

July 06, 2002|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

As temperatures eased yesterday into the bearable low 90s, the state medical examiner said that Thursday's 100-degree heat contributed to the deaths of four elderly people in metropolitan Baltimore.

The deaths brought to 10 the number of people who have died of heat-related causes since sultry weather descended on the area two weeks ago. Last year, 15 people in Maryland succumbed to the heat.

Three of the Independence Day victims died in their sweltering homes in Baltimore.

"They were found in their homes without air conditioning, where the interior temperatures ranged from 85 to 95 degrees," said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the city health commissioner.

The fourth victim, a resident of Baltimore County, also died at home.

A state Health Department spokesman would not release the names or addresses of those who died.

At least three of Thursday's victims suffered from underlying medical conditions that made them particularly vulnerable to the heat, officials said.

A 65-year-old Baltimore man suffered from hypertension, and a 72-year-old city man was weakened by hypertension and diabetes. A 78-year-old man who lived in Baltimore County had cardiovascular disease.

The fourth victim, a 90-year-old city woman, was probably vulnerable because of her age but also may have suffered from chronic illnesses, Beilenson said.

Prolonged exposure to the heat places additional -- and sometimes fatal -- stress on people whose health is seriously compromised by illnesses.

Yesterday's high temperature at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was 93 at 1:16 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. A heat index figure was not calculated because there was not enough moisture in the air after a mass of drier air moved into the area overnight.

On Thursday, the heat index -- a combination of heat and humidity -- hit 105 degrees at BWI.

Today's forecast calls for sunshine with highs in the mid-80s. Tomorrow is expected to bring more sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures, with highs in the upper 80s.

During the midweek heat wave -- the Independence Day high of 100 degrees at BWI tied a record from 1966 -- the humidity was so high that it was hard for the body to cool itself naturally through perspiration.

"The moisture just sort of sat on your skin, and you couldn't cool yourself," said Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

Yesterday, the state medical examiner's office also ruled that heat exhaustion was the cause of death on Wednesday of Andrew Waybright, a 23-year-old firefighter from Gettysburg, Pa., who collapsed near the end of a three-mile training run just south of Frederick.

Waybright did not have an underlying medical condition, according to a state Health Department spokesman.

He was training for a full-time job with the Frederick County fire service. The temperature was 84 degrees and the heat index was 96 degrees when he collapsed, a county emergency services spokesman said.

Waybright and 12 other recently hired firefighters had set out in shorts and T-shirts about 7 a.m. He reportedly told colleagues he felt dizzy about 8:10 a.m., and moments later he went into cardiac arrest.

Instructors tried to resuscitate him, and then called an ambulance. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

His death came as a blow to colleagues at the Harney Fire Company in Carroll County, where Waybright had worked as a volunteer firefighter.

"The boy was a really respectable guy -- he treated us old fellows really well," said Elwood Strickhouser. "He was a good guy, a hard worker, a dedicated fireman."

Heat also claimed the life of a 69-year-old Westminster man who was discovered a week ago behind the Crossroads Square shopping center on Route 140, according to Westminster police.

William Neal Settle was apparently overcome while out walking. He was barely breathing when police found him and was transported to Carroll County General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Sun staff writers Erica Niedowski, Ellie Baublitz, Sheridan Lyons and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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