Victims who died in Sedona sweat lodge identified

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by Jennifer Thomas and Natalie Rivers

azfamily.com

Posted on October 8, 2009 at 9:32 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 12 at 5:05 PM

UPDATE: The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has released the identities of the two people killed last week in a Sedona sweat lodge as James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y.

Shore is survived by three children and their mother and has a brother in Chicago. Brown is survived by her parents.

YCSO also released some more details about the retreat and the sweat lodge as they continue to investigate the cause behind these two deaths and hospitalization of 19 others.

"The participants in this retreat arrived at Angel Valley on October 3, 2009 and checked in at 4 P.M.," said Dwight D'Evelyn with YCSO in a news release. "Sunday through Tuesday afternoon was spent in lectures and seminars, On Tuesday night at approximately 10 P.M., participants are lead into the surrounding canyons to start their 'Vision Quest.' This part of the program covers a 36 hour period of fasting and spiritual exercises participants complete on their own. Thursday at daybreak, participants are fed breakfast including eggs, fruit and cereal, and encouraged to drink water. Mid-day Thursday is spent attending seminars. At approximately 3 P.M. on Thursday, the 'sweat lodge' experience begins.

"Inside the 'sweat lodge' Ray would lead the group in various forms of spiritual exercise," the news release continued. "The initial experience began with 12 cantaloupe sized shaped rocks brought into the lodge and place in a pit. The rocks were then saturated with water to create steam and sandalwood was thrown on the rocks to give the effect of incense. At the end of each designated time period, the dome’s door flap was raised and additional rocks were brought inside. Investigators found 58 rocks in the pit. Investigators have not determined the temperature inside the dome at the time of this exercise. Investigators are still in the process of determining how many people were actually inside the dome when at least 2 people, who fell ill, were dragged to the dome’s doorway."

A nurse on Ray's staff was inside the dome during these events.

Investigators said Ray's staff constructed the dome. Ray has used a sweat dome in past retreats he has led. Samples of the lodge's fabric are being tested, along with rock, firewood and the wooden dome frame.

Detectives are waiting results from autopsies. No charges are pending as the investigation into the incident continues.

ORIGINAL: PHOENIX -- Two people are dead after becoming ill in a sweat lodge at a retreat center in Sedona.

According to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, approximately 21 retreat participants became ill Thursday at the Angel Valley Retreat Center located off of Highway 89A at Deer Pass Road in Sedona. They were transported to area hospitals where two of them were pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said those injured had been part of a group of 64 people who were inside a "sweat dome" for up to two hours.

The structure is framed in a dome-like shape and covered with tarps and blankets. Hot rocks are used with water to create steam in the enclosed environment.

According to D'Evelyn, a man, identified as James Ray, hosted the group and rented the facility from the owners of the Angel Valley Retreat Center. Some attendees told detectives they paid up to $9,000 for their stay and participation in the program.

D'Evelyn said Ray was inside the dome when the medical emergencies occurred.

The two people who died were a middle-aged man and woman. Their names have not been released.

One person remains in critical condition and three people are listed in fair condition at Flagstaff Medical Center.

The incident is still under investigation.

Shore Family Statement

We are shocked and saddened by James' sudden death. Our primary focus now is to take care of our family and friends. We will continue to grieve for the loss of James and honor his memory as a dedicated husband, father, brother and son.

Christopher Shore
 

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