Sheriff: Lightning may not be to blame for Maroon Bells deaths
Lightning may not have killed a father and son found dead Wednesday in their tent near West Maroon Pass, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Thursday.
“Lightning may have been a premature guess,” DiSalvo said.
The results of autopsies on Jeffrey Beard, 41, and Cameron Beard, 14, of Colorado Springs, won’t be available for at least two weeks, until the coroner in Grand Junction receives the results of toxicology tests, he said.
If the two had died of a lightning strike, “we would have heard that instantly” from the coroner, DiSalvo said. Toxicology tests will be able to tell, for example, if they died of poisoning or another cause that wouldn’t be obvious in a standard autopsy, he said.
Darlene Liss, a Forest Service volunteer, told The Aspen Times on Wednesday that a Chicago man named Dave who ran down from the campsite to report the deaths told her there was a stove or heater in the tent, and that Jeffrey Beard had burns on one side of his body.
On Thursday, another person hiking in the area who checked the bodies before personnel from Mountain Rescue Aspen reached the campsite reported seeing a stove in the tent that was tipped over. The burn on Jeffrey Beard was on a part of his body closest to the stove, the person, who asked to remain anonymous, reported.
Also, the person saw no signs of damage to the tent and no apparent burns on the boy. Finally, both bodies had bright-pink faces with pink patches all over, which is a common sign of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to several websites.
Two other children — a 12-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy who were camping in a separate tent — were not injured. People who were camping nearby escorted them out of the wilderness.
Scant details about the Beard family were available Thursday. Jeffrey Beard’s brother-in-law, Rob Hammond, told The Aspen Times on Thursday that the family would release a statement today. He declined to comment further.
However, Jeffrey Beard’s brother, Randy Beard, posted a note on Facebook paying tribute to his brother and nephew.
“Jeff was a wonderful husband and father who loved being with his family and especially loved being in the out-of-doors,” the tribute states. “He spent many hours hiking with his kids. He leaves behind his wife and four young children.”
Randy Beard described Cameron Beard as “a wonderful young man with a sweet and gentle spirit. He was born with heart defects and underwent numerous surgeries to repair his heart.”
“Jeff and Cameron will be sorely missed,” Randy Beard concluded. “We are totally heartbroken and are praying for his wife Camille and their surviving kids.”
Camille Beard’s Facebook page shows numerous pictures of the family, many taken in picturesque outdoor settings. One, posted in September 2014, shows the family of seven smiling and standing in front of the Maroon Bells.
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