Monday, January 13, 2014

Chile: Israeli Defense Force Officer, 22, Dies from Hypothermia While Trekking in Harsh Weather

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Lieutenant Noam Rubinstein, 22, died on Thursday (January 9) while trekking in Cerro Castillo in southern Chile with another Israeli friend.

During their hiking trip, Rubinstein, injured her ankle in the remote mountain range. Her friend, another Israeli woman, left the injured hiker to get help, but a rescue team arrived just hours after Rubinstein succumbed to hypothermia.

Unfortunately, when first responders initially arrived on the scene in Cerro Castillo, the young IDF officer had already succumbed and died from the elements.

Rubinstein had been backpacking in South America after finishing her tour of duty with the IDF. She was planning to return to Israel and serve in the IDF as a career.

COMMENT: The IDF said that her family has been notified and is working in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry to repatriate her body back home.

Rubinstein was from Misgav in northern Israel and is survived by her parents and two brothers.

Rubinstein’s hiking partner, a young woman of Rubinstein’s age, barely survived the advancing stages of hypothermia and dehydration.

Chilean police were investigating the possible filing of negligence charges against the tour operator leading the trek.
Spanish hiker Juan Antonio Caro explained to Israel Hayom how he had met the two Israeli trekkers in the mountain range before they disappeared into a storm:
"There was a strong wind. The girls were weak and told me that they hadn't eaten. Their food had run out and they didn't have any water, and they weren't equipped with warm clothing," Caro recounted. "I gave them a bag of almonds I had on me and a little water. I told them that they needed to make progress and try to get out of the area. At a certain point the young one -- they told me afterward she had died -- rushed ahead of me about 60 meters and fell on the slope and I realized she was hurt. Her friend also fell and I went down to where they were but I only found one of them. At a certain point, I also lost her and it was hard to see them because of the storm. After a few kilometers I reached a point where there were some French tourists and with the help of a satellite phone we called for help."
On a constructive note, neither of the Israeli hikers were prepared for the rigors of cold weather hiking: Not only were they not dressed for cold weather, but they obviously had not prepared for hiking from the standpoint of warm clothing, hydration, food and particularly emergency communications, all of which are justifiable reasons why their tour operator should be charged criminally.
Park rangers were dispatched to search for the two women, and after a few hours they located Rubenstein's body. A little while later, they also found the second Israeli traveler, who was wounded and suffering from dehydration and hypothermia. Fortunately, she could be helped.
The local authorities, following initial investigations, reported that the tour operator through which the girls rented equipment and mapped their trek apparently failed to alert the two women about the chance of harsh weather.
The trekkers reportedly lost their way back because of poor sign-posting, which is against the law. Local police also said that some postings may have been obscured or disappeared during the storm.
In my February 12, 2012 posting, I related the misfortune experienced by Australian citizen David Fitzpatrick, 45, from New South Wales, who 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.

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.

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 Fitzpatrick’s 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.

One of the best treatments of information on hypothermia I know of can be found at:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothermia/basics/definition/con-20020453