Monday, February 13, 2012

Australian, 45, Succumbs, Dies While Walking to Hokkaidō Ski Resort

Australian citizen David Fitzpatrick, 45, from New South Wales, was found in a river at approximately 0200 hours on Sunday (February 12) near the Japanese ski town of Niseko.

Niseko, population 5,000, is largely a ski town located on the island of Hokkaidō [Japan]. Niseko principally refers to a wider area of ski resorts encompassing Hokkaidō's Mount Yōtei, often referred to as the "Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido."

The name Niseko derives from the Ainu language and means "a cliff jutting over a riverbank deep in the mountains." Its main industries are agriculture and tourism.

Mr. Fitzpatrick was on a holiday with a group of friends and was last seen at a local bar on Sunday, but failed to turn up at the airport for his return flight to Australia the next morning. It is believed he may have become disorientated when walking home.

The group of friends had been staying at a backpackers lodge in Izumikyo, about a ten-minute walk from the bar, for the past week.

COMMENT: In April 2009, the body of a missing Brisbane skier, Scott McKay, was found two months after he left a bar in sub-zero temperatures.

Although an autopsy will hopefully disclose Fitzpatrick's cause of death, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic's website, it is possible that the sub-zero temperature coupled with too much alcohol may be the culprit in his sudden death.

While alcohol may make us feel warmer, it actually aids in decreasing core body temperature. Normally when we feel cold, it is because blood has flowed from our skin into the organs to keep our core body temperature warm.

After alcohol consumption, though, blood flows into the skin, giving us that warm feeling and making our faces flush, but leaving our body temperature to decrease rapidly.

The absence of this blood flow reflex during intoxication makes it quite possible for a person's body temperature to take a major dip without them even realizing it.

Hence, the decreased core body temperature brought about by intoxication could lead to fatal hypothermia in the case of an alcohol-induced coma in freezing temperatures.