Counselors Thought Teen Was Faking Collapse

Counselors Thought Teen Was Faking Collapse

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FILLMORE, Utah (AP) -- When 14-year-old Ian August collapsed during a hike through Utah's west desert last summer, his wilderness therapy counselors first thought he was faking.

But the youth from Austin, Texas, died and an autopsy concluded he had suffered from hyperthermia -- excessive body heat.

"I thought it might have been a show," counselor Matt Gause testified Monday concerning August's collapse during the July 13 hike. "There was nothing alarming about any of it."

Following Monday's hearing before 4th District Judge Donald Eyre, the judge took under advisement whether to order Mark Wardle, Skyline Journey's field director, to stand trial on a charge of child-abuse homicide.

Prosecutors charged Wardle, 47, with the second-degree felony last year, contending he failed to get help quickly enough to save the youth.

Prosecutors contend the temperature soared to near 105, but defense attorneys maintain that it was less than 95 degrees outside, the point at which Utah law prohibits such therapy hikes.

Millard County prosecutor Brent Berkley dismissed a similar charge against co-defendant Leigh Hale, a head field instructor for Skyline. Hale agreed to testify against Wardle and her former employer in exchange for Monday's dismissal, The Salt Lake Tribune said.

Hale called August "abnormally obese," adding that he was "sometimes difficult to get motivated."

August, who was 5-foot-4 and weighed as much as 200 pounds, was sent to the program by his adoptive mother to help him deal with his weight.

"Ian just sat down on his backpack and stopped hiking," Hale testified. "He came across as being a little bit defiant (and) I tried to convince him to keep hiking."

She said it was 20 minutes before she called Wardle, and she made no further attempt to determine August's temperature beyond touching his skin.

Hale said it was 45 minutes before she and Gause moved August into the shade of a juniper tree.

She and Gause performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 2 1/2 hours until emergency crews reached them, about 50 miles west of Delta in Bird Canyon.

The state Office of Licensing ordered the Skyline Journey program shut down, but it continues to operate while the company appeals.

Kelly Husbands, licensing specialist for the Division of Child and Family Services, testified that he found Skyline's only violation was failing to provide August's Texas doctor with an adequate description of the environment and the program's physical demands. Husbands said the participants all were given adequate food and water.

Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to provide written closing arguments by next Monday.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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