Resident found on bus died of hyperthermia complications, coroner says

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Complications of hyperthermia were responsible for the death of an 84-year-old senior living resident whose body was found on her community's travel bus the day after she went on an outing with fellow residents, a coroner has ruled.

The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released the autopsy report of Mary Schlecht to McKnight's Senior Living on Tuesday. Medical Examiner Joshua Lanter, M.D., had examined Schlecht's body on Aug. 29, the day after she was found on a bus belonging to Brookdale Tulsa Midtown, Tulsa, OK, where she was a resident. Schlecht had been on the bus since the afternoon of Aug. 27, when she and other residents returned from an outing.

Temperatures on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28 reached the mid-90s, Lanter wrote in the report, and the temperature of Schlecht's body, when found, was 102 to 104 degrees. The examination revealed signs of dehydration, he added.

Lanter classified the death as an accident.

Schlecht's daughter, Linda Williams, filed a lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living and others in October, asking for actual and punitive damages. She alleges that employee John Hendricks* was allowed to drive the community's bus despite not having a commercial driver's license or the training required by regulations, that the community did not have medically trained staff members on the bus for residents who might need care and that the community did not train employees on how to account for residents with disabilities. Schlecht had dementia and other medical conditions, according to the medical examiner's report.

In addition to the parent company and Hendricks, the lawsuit names Brookdale Tulsa Midtown, Emeritus Corp. and outing planner Amanda Hollinger-Steward.

Reached Aug. 29, a Brookdale Senior Living spokeswoman told McKnight's Senior Living that the community's leadership was supporting residents and employees in the wake of the tragedy and was working closely with local authorities. After news of the lawsuit became public, the spokeswoman said that Brookdale executives would not comment on a pending legal matter.

* Update: The bus driver's name is Johnathan Patrick Kendrick, not John Hendricks as stated in the lawsuit.

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