Hiker Dies in Apparent Heat-Related Incident on Santa Cruz Island

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Date: October 21, 2009
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

On Friday, October 16, 2009, a 49-year-old man died of what appears to have been a case of heat stroke following a prolonged hike in unseasonably hot weather on Santa Cruz Island within Channel Islands National Park.

Thomas Pruner, of Lake Forest, California, took a 14-mile hike from Prisoners Harbor to Scorpion Campground on Santa Cruz Island along with a group of male friends. The group of four hikers started their trek at approximately 11:00 a.m. in record high temperatures reaching up to 94 degrees, terrain with little shade, and virtually no wind. 

Per his hiking partners, Pruner exhibited signs of fatigue early in the hike and experienced increasing difficulty throughout the day. He was assisted the last couple of miles to their destination in Scorpion Valley campground arriving at about 5:00 p.m. Upon arrival he began seizing and shortly thereafter became unconscious and unresponsive. 
Immediate care was provided by an off-duty U.S. Navy fire captain from San Diego, a kayak guide with Santa Barbara Adventure Company, and National Park Service staff. The responders attempted to resuscitate Pruner using an AED and CPR for about an hour. They were relieved by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department paramedics who continued efforts for nearly another 30 minutes. Pruner was declared deceased at 7:27 p.m. and transported to the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office.

Prior to their hike, rangers provided Pruner and his group a general safety orientation that included information about staying hydrated while hiking on the island. They were advised to carry more water given the extended length of their hike and the hot conditions. They were each carrying approximately two liters of water at the start of their hike.

Last updated: February 27, 2015

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