Coroner: Hunter died of ‘positional asphyxia’
A hunter who was found dead in the Fryingpan Valley Monday suffocated after his all-terrain vehicle rolled on top of him in an accident and pinned him to the ground, the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office ruled Tuesday.
Glen Helmick, 56, of Arvada, died of “positional asphyxia,” Coroner Steve Ayers said. That occurs when the airway is “kinked shut” because of the position a person ends up in, he said.
Helmick was found upside down and bent into “C” with his ATV pinning him to rocks along the Fryingpan River.
“He was kind of rolled up in a ball and wasn’t able to breath,” said Pitkin County Deputy Marie Munday, who investigated the death.
It is unknown why Helmick couldn’t free himself. He might have been knocked unconscious when his head hit rocks, Ayers said. He might have simply landed awkwardly and couldn’t move the four-wheeled Honda ATV.
Investigators are studying if alcohol played a role, according to Ayers. A “high” level of alcohol was found in Helmick’s urine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he had a high alcohol level in his blood, Ayers said. Results of a toxicology test are pending.
Helmick was staying in the Yolanda Placer Cabins with a hunting party that included his two adult sons. He was last seen by members of his party at mid-afternoon Sunday, according to Munday. They reported him missing at 1:30 a.m. Monday.
A Thomasville firefighter happened to spot Helmick’s body and his yellow ATV down a steep embankment at about 7 a.m. Monday. The site was at mile marker 24 of Frying Pan Road, just downvalley from the Thomasville fire station.
Investigators worked on a theory Monday that Helmick drove off the side of the road while traveling downvalley. But on Tuesday, they studied the possibility that he might crossed the river after a hunting outing, tried to drive up an embankment to the road and toppled backward on his machine as he climbed the steep embankment.
Munday said she was initially told by members of the hunting party that Helmick hadn’t been drinking on Sunday.
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