08/09/07 — Heat might have been cause of Rosewood area death

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Heat might have been cause of Rosewood area death

By Lee Williams
Published in News on August 9, 2007 1:46 PM

Scorching 101-degree temperatures that hounded residents on Wednesday are the suspected culprit in a Wayne County man's death.

Barry Hal Scott, 47, was found dead outside of a home in the 200 block of Westbrook Avenue where he lived with a retired couple.

Wayne County Sheriff's officials said Scott had just installed an air conditioning unit before he died. Heat is suspected, but officials say they will look further as a precautionary measure.

"It is a suspected heat-related death, but his body has been sent to Chapel Hill for an autopsy," Wayne County Sheriff's Maj. Ray Smith said. "We are waiting for a medical examiner to give us the exact cause of death."

Scott's body was found by a family friend, Renee Sandra Ellis. Mrs. Ellis, 64, and her husband took Scott in after his mother was admitted into a nursing home. Scott, a divorced father of a teenaged daughter, Summer, had been staying with the Ellises off and on for about a year.

"Me and my husband are disabled, and he did chores for us," Mrs. Ellis said.

Mrs. Ellis choked back tears as she spoke of Scott's death Thursday.

"We just bought an air conditioner, and he put it in," she said. "He went outside to seal it with foam."

Mrs. Ellis later grew concerned when he didn't return in about two hours, so she went outside to look for him.

That's when she made the startling discovery.

"I found him outside," she said. "His head was laying on a little metal tool box. Either the heat overcame him or he slipped and fell, but the heat definitely didn't help. It was really hot."

Mrs. Ellis said she suspects the heat caused Scott to pass out and hit his head on the toolbox, leaving a bruise.

Heat-related illnesses and deaths are common during the summer months. Elderly people and infants are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as any person taking antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure or depression, according to health experts.

Heat exhaustion is a condition that often occurs when people work, play or exercise in a hot, humid place, and their body fluids are lost through sweating, causing their bodies to overheat. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention but is not usually life-threatening.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches; intensive sweating; heavy thirst; feeling of extreme tiredness; loss of coordination; nausea; impaired judgment; loss of appetite; hyperventilation; tingling in hands or feet; nervousness; cool, moist skin; rapid but weak pulse and low or normal blood pressure, according to Betty Smith, manager of employee health at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

Heat stroke is more serious than heat exhaustion and is life-threatening. With heat stroke, a person's cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, has stopped working, and the internal temperature (of 105°F or more) has risen to the point where brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result.

Ms. Smith said a very high temperature is the first sign of a heat stroke, but the person might not be sweating. She said other symptoms include hot, red, flushed, dry skin; rapid pulse; difficulty breathing; constricted pupils; severe confusion or bizarre behavior; high blood pressure; convulsions and loss of consciousness or a collapse. She added that heat stroke is often mistaken for a heart attack.