The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office is investigating the deaths of eight San Bernardino Mountains residents that have occurred since a series of snowstorms belted the area, including that of a 93-year-old woman who a relative said appeared to be healthy and a man who had been unable to receive dialysis treatments.
The coroner has responded to 13 deaths in the mountains from Feb. 26 to March 8, the office said Thursday, March 9. By comparison, there were 11 coroner cases in the mountains during an 11-day period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 11, according to the coroner’s website. Nine of those were from natural causes and two were accidental.
In addition to the eight deaths under investigation, one person died from injuries suffered when hit by a car and four others were either in hospice care or already in a hospital.
“When reviewing these deaths, the preliminary assessment is only one of these had a direct correlation to the weather. The decedent died at the hospital as the result of a traffic accident during the storm,” a news release said.
That victim, a 39-year-old woman, died at Bear Valley Community Hospital after the collision in Fawnskin.
Elinor “Dolly” Avenatti, 93, was found dead in her living room on March 6, said a great-niece, Valli Compton, 59, of Glendora. A neighbor broke down the door after Avenatti didn’t respond to knocks, Compton said. The power had gone out, leaving Avenatti without heat or the ability to call out on her landline, Compton said.
When Compton called on Feb. 28, Avenatti told her that the snow was preventing her from walking to her neighbor’s home.
“She sounded great when I talked with her,” Compton said. “She was a strong woman and very independent, so I don’t know what happened.”
The coroner said Avenatti had “a significant medical history,” and that there was “no evidence” that a lack of food or resources contributed to her death, based on a preliminary investigation. Compton said she was unaware of any health issues other than being 93 years old. Avenatti walked every day, baked, traveled, wrote letters and was active in the Crestline community, where the former traffic enforcement officer in Los Angeles County had lived for the past 60 years.
While some have criticized the speed of the government’s response to the weather crisis, Compton said she does not blame emergency workers for her great-aunt’s death.
“If it’s not storm related, then nobody is going to know but her and God,” Compton said.
The dialysis patient who required treatments three days a week was unable to get to them because of the snow, a friend told the Big Bear Lake City Council on Wednesday.
Here is a summary of the seven deaths under investigation in addition to Avenatti’s as described by the coroner. None had any signs of injury:
• Feb. 28, Wrightwood: A 65-year-old woman with no known medical history died at home after complaining of flu-like symptoms.
• March 2, Crestline: A 77-year-old woman with a limited medical history was found dead on the floor of her home by her landlord one week after last being seen alive.
• March 3, Valley of Enchantment: A 77-year-old man was found dead in his home after relatives who couldn’t reach him by phone asked sheriff’s deputies to check on him. Deputies initially could not reach the home because of the snow, so a neighbor broke in and found him dead in bed. The coroner eventually removed his body. He was last seen alive on Feb. 28. His medical history was unknown to the coroner.
• March 3, Arrowbear: A 33-year-old man with limited medical history was found dead in his bedroom by family members. He was last seen alive the night before.
• March 3: Big Bear City: A 62-year-old man was found dead at home by deputies. He did not respond to neighbors when they went ot check on him a few days after he said he was feeling sick and was taking non-prescription medication.
• March 6: Big Bear Lake: A 46-year-old woman with a history of mental illness but no known medical history was discovered when deputies checked on her. She was last seen alive about a week before her body was found.
• March 8, Crestline: A 68-year-old man died in bed at his home after a well-documented medical history. He was seen alive the day before.
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