Altitude Exposure May Have Killed Teen Hiker

Nathan Bell Graduated From Rangeview High School In May

Authorities believe altitude exposure killed a 17-year-old Aurora teen who died on the Fourth of July while hiking with his church group.

Nathan Bell died Monday near Cameron Pass. The altitude at the top of the Pass is more than 10,200 feet and during the six-day backpacking trip, the church group may have hiked to as much as 12,000 feet, said Diane Fairman, an investigator with the Larimer County Coroner's office.

The coroner's office will have to review pathology slides, toxicology tests and blood cultures before it can confirm that altitude exposure is the official cause of death.

Bell was said to be in good shape and had done this kind of hiking before, said Jerry Fultz, director of development for the New Life Evangelical Free Church, which organized the hiking trip. The teen was in the final stages of becoming an Eagle Scout, Fultz said.

Early in the camping trip, Bell apparently experienced "some altitude sickness, but nothing so severe" that he had to be airlifted out of the area, said Fairman.

Then, on the last day of the trip -- at about 10:30 a.m. -- Bell indicated that he didn't feel well, Fairman said. The hiking guides tried to give him water, but the teen just collapsed. Some in the group administered CPR immediately as others rush down the trail for help.

Help arrived within 30 minutes but Bell was never revived.

Nathan Bell graduated from Rangeview High School in May and would have turned 18 on Sunday.

Fairman said that Bell's death is not suspicious and no foul play was involved.

Bell would have turned 18 years old on Sunday. His family was scheduled to leave for Disneyland this week to celebrate his high school graduation and 18th birthday, Fultz said.

Bell graduated with high honors from Rangeview High School in May and was well-liked by a lot of students because of his sense of humor and outgoing personality, said principal Rob Bishop.

He was to attend Colorado State University in the fall.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the church, located at 17690 Iliff Ave., which is located across from Rangeview High School.

Doctors at Denver Health Medical center say the altitude impacts different people in different ways and just because the altitude doesn't make you ill one time doesn't mean it won't the next.

Altitude sickness is usually associated with shortness of breath, sick stomach, and a headache that just won't go away. If you feel these symptoms come on, the best thing you can do is head for lower ground.

"In most cases, by the time you descend, your symptoms are either gone or well on the way to being gone," said Dr. Stephen Cantrill with Denver Health Medical Center.

Cantrill said drinking lots of fluids and minimizing alcohol intake can also help fight altitude illnesses.

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