Campers found dead in Colorado 1
Life flight and Search and Rescue personnel respond to two campers found dead in Colorado near Maroon Lake on Wednesday.  Source:   CBS Denver

A father and son were found dead in their tent at the popular outdoor destination of Maroon Lake, Colorado on Wednesday morning. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office originally believed a lightning strike was responsible for the deaths, but new findings point to poisoning. The victims were identified as Jeffrey Beard, 41, and Cameron Beard, 14, from Colorado Springs. Two other young children were found unharmed in an adjacent tent.

Campers found dead in Colorado 2
Maroon Bells is a popular outdoor destination located in the White River National Forest and is part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado. Source:  Travel Tips Colorado

According to reports from the Aspen Times, hikers found the victims Wednesday morning and reported there was an overturned camp stove in the tent and that Jeffrey Beard was burned. The burns were located on the side of the body closest to the stove, said witnesses. The body of Cameron Beard was not burned, but both bodies appeared to have bright pink faces. Witnesses also reported that the tent did not appear to be damaged, lending credence that the deaths were not caused by a lightning strike. Autopsy and toxicology reports on the victims will not be completed for several weeks, said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.

If carbon monoxide was responsible for the deaths, it is more common than most people think. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide related poisoning is the leading cause of poisoning in the United States and accounts for approximately 15,000 emergency room visits and 500 deaths a year. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless toxic gas produced by incomplete combustion in fuel-burning devices such as camping stoves. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, nausea, dizziness and confusion.

According to the CDC, symptoms of poisoning are often overlook by the victims and undetected exposure can be fatal. A Norwegian study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2004 measured the carbon monoxide exposure to climbers while melting snow in a tent using a camp stove for two hours at an elevation of 650 feet. The study found that, after two hours, participants experienced blood carbon monoxide levels of 21.5% and their heart rates had increased from 63 to 90 beats per minute. Higher elevations can increase the effects of the poisoning. The Beard’s campsite was located at 11,000 feet.

Campers found dead in Colorado 3
Beard Family at Maroon Bells wilderness in 2014.  Source: Aspen Times
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