Coro­ner: Hiker died of pul­monary, cere­bral edema.

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

High al­ti­tude pul­monary edema and high al­ti­tude cere­bral edema caused the death of a young Col­legeville woman who was hik­ing in Colorado last month, au­thor­i­ties said.

Twenty-year-old Su­sanna “Susie” DeFor­est likely be­gan de­vel­op­ing the pul­monary edema dur­ing a visit to Dil­lon, Colo., a day or two be­fore she be­gan hik­ing in the As­pen area Aug. 17, said Pitkin County Coro­ner Dr. Steve Ay­ers, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Post In­de­pen­dent.

DeFor­est de­vel­oped symp­toms of cere­bral edema — in­clud­ing vom­it­ing and con­fu­sion — dur­ing the hike to the Co­nun­drum Hot Springs with three friends, he said in the re­port.

The first of two he­li­copters dis­patched to pick DeFor­est up could not land be­cause it was too heavy, Ay­ers said Fri­day in the re­port. Ini­tially, he said he thought DeFor­est might have lived had that he­li­copter been able to land, though that later proved to be false.

That’s be­cause the friend who stayed with DeFor­est re­ported that she came out of the tent to sig­nal the he­li­copter at the time with her cell phone, then re­turned to the tent af­ter the land­ing was aborted to find DeFor­est was dead, Ay­ers said. DeFor­est died at about 1:30 a.m., he said, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“It wouldn’t have mat­tered,” Ay­ers said of the he­li­copter’s aborted land­ing.

The se­cond he­li­copter that would even­tu­ally take DeFor­est’s body out of the wilderness did not ar­rive un­til 5 a.m., the re­port states.

Kathy Shoe­maker, chief flight nurse at Care Flight in Grand Junc­tion, said in the re­port Fri­day that the pi­lot thought the he­li­copter was too heavy to land in the com­pact site, so he flew back to the air­port to drop a per­son off. At that point, he needed more fuel, but it wasn’t avail­able at the As­pen air­port, she said in the re­port.

A he­li­copter from Flight For Life in Sum­mit County made the re­turn trip to fly the body out, said Shoe­maker and To­daro, in the re­port.

High al­ti­tude pul­monary edema and high al­ti­tude cere­bral edema “can be in­sid­i­ous and mimic other ill­nesses,” Ay­ers said in a state­ment Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

DeFor­est’s friends did not rec­og­nize or know what was hap­pen­ing to her, Ay­ers said in a sub­se­quent in­ter­view. High al­ti­tude pul­monary edema is 100 per­cent fa­tal un­less the per­son suf­fer­ing from it is brought down to a lower al­ti­tude or given oxy­gen, he said, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

It be­gins to de­velop above 6,600 feet and likely would have abated if she’d been brought down to As­pen’s al­ti­tude, Ay­ers said in the re­port.

DeFor­est had just fin­ished her sopho­more year study­ing graphic de­sign at the Penn­syl­va­nia Col­lege of Art & De­sign in Lan­caster. She’d been named to the dean’s list dur­ing the spring se­mes­ter.

DeFor­est’s mother, Kate, took to her Face­book page over two weeks ago to an­nounce that her daugh­ter

“It wouldn’t have mat­tered.”

— Dr. Steve Ay­ers, Pitkin County coro­ner of the he­li­copter’s aborted land­ing.

died of acute al­ti­tude sick­ness.

“Her friends who were with her did all they could to get help to her in time,” she wrote.

DeFor­est’s fam­ily made a trip to Colorado to see her one last time and “visit a place she loved,” said Kate. She said her daugh­ter was an avid hiker who loved the out­doors.

“Thank you for your prayers, we are dev­as­tated and griev­ing but re­ly­ing on the peace of Christ and all the prayers,” she said.


A coro­ner in Colorado has de­ter­mined the of­fi­cial cause of death of Su­sanna “Susie” DeFor­est.

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